Does anyone have a link to their criteria and weighting? Looking at last year's lists, it looks like the criteria are :
Overall Satisfaction (?)
No idea what the relative weights are, but keep in mind it's "best resort", not "best skiing".
The categories are weighted equally, which explains the result skewing toward "resorts" more than directly ski-related criteria. Don't blame the respondents, blame the editors for choosing those categories and weighting them equally. If you look at the list for "Overall Satisfaction," you'll find it much more driven by ski-related criteria.
The Unofficial Networks List continues to perpetuate the myth of southern and western Colorado being favored by the strong El Nino. The facts are these since the early 1970's:
Wolf Creek 100% in strong El Nino months, 96% in strong La Nina months
Purgatory 98% in strong El Nino months, 96% in strong La Nina months
Telluride 105% in strong El Nino months, 107% in strong La Nina months
Telluride's record high season was during strong La Nina 2007-08.
Moving farther north:
Crested Butte 90% in strong El Nino months, 110% in strong La Nina months
Aspen 100% in strong El Nino months, 105% in strong La Nina months
Aspen and CB also had record high snowfall during strong La Nina 2007-08.
You have to go to NM to get even moderately favored by El Nino:
Taos 114% in strong El Nino months, 91% in strong La Nina months
Only SoCal, Arizona and the comparable latitudes in South America are strongly favored by El Nino with expectations in the range of 125% of average.
I'm fairly transparent about what's considered in the zrankings snow formula as I've already published most of this info on my website. I have not seen the algorithm for non-snow factors in zrankings and thus cannot speak to how they factor into the overall PAF.
Zrankings also factors in how many flights to the airport in question, which indirectly is not a bad measure of price competition. I'm personally not a fan of accessibility in rating ski resorts (depends on where the consumer lives), but if you're going to do it I think zrankings is doing it the right way.
I agree with anachronism's criticism of number of runs and vertical. Zrankings mitigates vertical somewhat by counting continuous vertical, so Jackson counts more than Big Sky for example, as it should IMHO. Nonetheless I would rate scale/ski variety differently, starting with acreage and adjusting that up or down for areas disproportionately steep or flat. This would be more subjective and thus more work to do for a large number of areas.
is unfortunately not worth much if taken from ski area brochures, where it's explicitly stated as relative within the ski area. Terrain difficulty needs to be defined on an absolute scale, as I have done when writing resort guides: http://bestsnow.net/resguide.htm . This also is subjective and a lot of work to do for a large number of ski areas.