Folks on Epic spend a lot of time reviewing ski gear. I find the ski gear reviews on this site very helpful and worthwhile, and Philpug's review template adds some method to the madness.
The posted "Resort Guide" rankings of ski areas are not nearly as useful. I was just checking out the Epic Resort Guide ski area reviews on Epic. According to Epic, Jackson Hole is the #21 ski area in the U.S.--ranked one spot above Hunter Mtn. NY (#22 in the U.S.). There are lots of other "unexpected" results.
I started reading the reviews for various mountains, and I have identified several reasons why I believe the Epic Resort Guide rankings are not consistent with (at least my) expectations. I also have some suggestions to make the Resort Guide ratings more valuable to users.
First, the rankings aren't relative to anything. For the most part, reviewers like their home mountain, so they tend to give it at least four stars, regardless of whether it's a major destination resort, or a local ski area.
If reviewers were told that JH and Snowbird are the standards for 5 star Downhill Terrain (I assume "terrain" also includes attributes like snow quality/quantity), and that Stowe and Sugarbush are the standard for 4 star Downhill Terrain, then ski areas in PA and Ohio shouldn't be getting four star ratings. My point is that everything should be relative to a standard, I'm not trying to start an argument about whether there is a one-star difference between Eastern and Western resorts (if some of you want to argue about this, go right ahead, just don't expect me to join in).
Second, there are simply too few reviews of each ski area (insufficient sample size). One overly exhuberant review, or one underwhelmingly mediocre review, is enough to significantly tilt the ratings when a ski area only has two or three (or seven, or eight) reviews.
Third, different strokes for different folks. Many of the reviews mention that there's lots of great terrain for beginners and intermediates. If the reviewer is a progressing intermediate skiier, with kids that are new to the sport, that might be an important attribute to the reviewer and present a perfectly valid basis for rating the Downhill Terrain at a mountain like Stratton or Okemo 5 stars. My hypothetical reviewer would probably prefer the Downhill Terrain at Chestnut Mtn. in Galena, Ill, to Sliverton or Jackson Hole.
This argues for more categories--change the broad, catch-all "Downhill Terrain" to several categories, like "Extreme Terrain," "Expert (Advanced?) Terrain," "Intermediate Terrain," and "Beginner Terrain."
Fourth, the numerical rankings (from #1 to #???) do not appear to be dependent on the overall number of stars that a particular ski area received. For example, Stratton, the #28 ski area in the U.S., received 3.5 overall stars, while the #29 ski area, Cannon, received 4 stars and the #30 ski area, Park City, received 4.5 stars overall. There may be a guide somewhere on the site that explains how the numerical rankings were developed, but I didn't find it. It would be helpful to know how these are calculated.
Fifth, there should be an ability to sort on specific desired attributes, such as "Downhill Terrain," so that factors like "Terrain Park" or "Nightlife" can be ignored if desired. Not sure if the software that runs this site will accommodate, but it would be a nice feature.
Finally, ballot stuffing (positive or negative) should be prevented, to the extent possible. Not sure how to do this, perhaps a minimum post requirement in order to submit a resort review, and/or the calculation software could throw out the highest and lowest review(s) for each ski area from the stars/ranking calculation (all reviews should be posted, even if they are not used in the calcs.).