Size isn’t everything when it comes to ski resorts.
Case in point: Holiday Valley.
Though its peaks rise only 750 feet from a base elevation of 1,500 feet, the Ellicottville resort was rated the third best overall of 20 Eastern resorts in Ski magazine’s 2015-16 rankings. Twelve thousand readers reportedly participated in the magazine’s 28th annual survey.
Third place is high praise, indeed, considering fifth-place finisher Whiteface Mountain, a one-time Winter Olympics venue in the Adirondacks, has the greatest vertical drop: 3,430 feet. Or that Mont Tremblant, the Quebec resort that won top honors overall in the East, has a vertical drop of 2,116 feet.
So if size really doesn’t matter, what’s Holiday Valley’s secret?
“The whole skiing experience is more than just vertical,” Jane Eshbaugh, Holiday Valley’s marketing director, said Wednesday. “The skiing that we have is really fun.”
Magazine readers ranked 50 resorts in Eastern and Western North America. Another Canadian resort was crowned the best of the West: Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia.
In the past 12 years, Holiday Valley has landed in the top 10 of Eastern resorts, placing high in many of the 18 categories evaluated.
“All the other things go into it; the whole feeling that you get when you come,” Eshbaugh said.
In the latest survey, Ski magazine readers rated Holiday Valley No. 2 for access, snow, lift system, family programs, dining and lodging. The après-ski scene was ranked third in the East.
The resort has seen its ranking for lodging climb, according to Eshbaugh. The resort owns the Tamarack Club, a hotel/condominium development, as well as Inn at Holiday Valley.
“I think this is the highest we have been in lodging; that’s really exciting,” she said. “It’s very convenient to the slopes.”
The high ranking for après ski is a reflection of how much fun it is to be in Ellicottville after getting off the slopes, Eshbaugh said.
“I think the village plays a big part in the success of Holiday Valley, but it works both ways,” she said. “We’re definitely a symbiotic relationship.”
Holiday Valley’s comparatively modest elevation and vertical feet might be insurmountable to ever reaching the top ranking among Eastern resorts.
“I think we’re very happy to be in the top 10; to be No. 3 is beyond our wildest dreams,” Eshbaugh said. “Like I said: It’s more than just the vertical.”