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POLL TOPPLES VAIL AND ASPEN

Vail and Aspen, long the double diamonds of skiing in North America, have dropped to fourth and fifth in a skier survey.

The Colorado resorts' high prices was a major factor, according to a poll of avid skiers, who rated the resorts for Ski Magazine.

The magazine's readers rated Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia as the best, followed by Sun Valley, Idaho, and Deer Valley, Utah.

Aspen dropped from third to fifth. Its sister resort, Snowmass, was sixth, followed by Beaver Creek, owned by Vail Resorts.

As for Vail, one reader of Ski Magazine said, "You have to sell a kidney to afford to ski here."

Greg Trinker, an editor at Ski, said, "Aspen is expensive. The mountain is cramped. The inhabitants are snobbish. And there may be no better place on the planet to take a ski vacation."

"We're not going to overreact," said Vail Resorts spokesman Porter Wharton III. "But by the same token, I think this means to us that we need to do everything we can to get back up on top."

The survey was the result of questionnaires sent to 10,000 readers who ski an average of 26 times a year.

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