The Scientific Method
We crafted our unique algorithm with the help of Christopher Steiner, an engineer and the New York Times bestselling author of Automate This, which focuses on the power of algorithms. Steiner is also the founder of ZRankings.com, which uses algorithms to rank ski resorts for snow, terrain and a bevy of other factors.
The algorithm we analyzed considers inputs from a pool of 60 ski resorts, selected by our editors. Using FREESKIER’s proprietary weighting criteria, we narrowed this group to the 10 best overall, along with the top five in the east. Our algorithm examined 27 factors for each resort, some of them off-the-shelf stats such as vertical drop and skiable acreage, and others that are close to our editors’ hearts, like the on-mountain price of a cheeseburger and a beer. Some categories, like snowfall, were weighted more heavily. Other factors, like whether a resort is part of a multi-resort pass, or if it has a wealth of late night food options, were scored as binary: resorts possessing these elements all get the same extra scoring bump, those without receive zero points.
Once all the weights and factors were multiplied and totaled up, we set the score of the top resort to 100. All other scores are reflected as a percentage of that maximum score attained.
Confused yet? If not, you may have a future in numbers or writing code. Either way, what matters most here: We started with 60 resorts, and after crunching the numbers, we’ve devised a definitive list of ski areas that offer the best experiences for FREESKIER readers.
To see the resort statistics in full, visit freeskier.com/travel
The criteria, in order of importance, are as follows:
- FREESKIER staff selections
- Average annual snowfall (average of all mountains if part of multi-mountain package, e.g. Aspen, Snowmass, Highlands, Buttermilk)
- ZRankings snow score*
- Skiable acreage
- Vertical drop (highest single drop if part of multi-mountain package)
- Cost of lodging (peak season, per night, according to TripAdvisor)
- Lift ticket price (highest possible price)
- Distance from major airport (miles)
- Drive time from closest city (minutes)
- Major competitions hosted? (Y/N)
- Number of lifts
- Number of backcountry gates
- Price of season pass
- Part of multi-resort pass (Y/N)
- Airport-to-resort transport (Y/N)
- In-town transport (Y/N)
- Average hotel ranking (by star ranking according to TripAdvisor; accounts for hotels within two miles of resort)
- Host special events? (Y/N)
- Bars within two miles (tiers, ending with 20-plus, according to YELP)
- Restaurants within two miles (tiers, ending with 20-plus)
- Quality of restaurants in area (via top 20 ranked on YELP)
- Price of beer on-mountain
- Price of burger on-mountain
- Weed legal (Y/N)
- Night skiing (Y/N)
- Availability of late night eats
- Average annual snowfall of nearby resorts
*This score accounts for total snow quantity, its moisture content, the resort’s latitude, elevation, and its slope aspects, which affect total snow preservation.