VAIL - The minute Chris Romer heard about Vail's Epic Discovery announcement, he was already thinking about what it will mean for future economic activity, specifically group business, in Vail.
Vail Resorts announced its plans for Vail Mountain last month - plans that include major additions to the summer activities available at the resort.
When Romer, the executive director of the Vail Valley Partnership, heard the plan, he immediately knew it would give Vail the upper hand in terms
of attracting new summer
"The summer products at mountain resorts are so similar," Romer said. "You don't have the differentiation you have in the winter."
Winter guests, for example, likely choose resorts for varying reasons, such as difficulty or ease of the terrain and the availability of other amenities in town such as restaurants, hotels and shopping. In the summer, however, mountain resorts sort of blend together in terms of what's offered for visitors.
Vail has already done a great job differentiating itself through special events. There doesn't seem to be a single day in town when a major cultural event isn't taking place in the summers.
But, with the addition of things such as rope courses, ziplines, Forest Flyers (alpine coasters) and extended hiking and biking trails, Vail Mountain has an enormous opportunity to set itself apart from other summer mountain resorts, Romer said.
Vail Resorts said summer traffic could increase threefold at the announcement.
"That creates a huge opportunity that frankly no one else has," he said.
The Vail Local Marketing District, which markets Vail's summer and offseason months, hasn't fully thought out the marketing opportunities yet, but member Mia Vlaar expects the topic will become a part of the group's retreat in early September.
"I think the really exciting thing about it is Vail has been brave enough to lead the way and set the standard for all the resorts to follow," Vlaar said.
'Can't be undersold'
Epic Discovery isn't just adding new activities to Vail Mountain, it's also a partnership with the Nature Conservancy, the organization that Vail will donate 1 percent of its summer mountain revenues to for forest health restoration projects in the West.
Initially, Vlaar sees the most opportunity in the fact that the new activities have the potential to eventually extend the summer season. The Vail Local Marketing District is tasked with marketing Vail in every non-winter month, which includes May and October, the so-called offseasons.
If all goes well and the projects bring in the business and revenue that Vail Resorts is projecting, Vail's offseasons could be a thing of the past.
"The ability to actually extend the summer is one of the biggest opportunities," she said.
Romer is thinking of group business opportunities as they relate to the summer additions on the mountain in that those additions could be what sway businesses and other groups to choose Vail over another mountain resort.
"From a groups and meetings standpoint - those folks are looking for off-site and team-building activities," Romer said.
The theme in Vail has been "new" for the past five or so years, Romer pointed out. From new restaurants to a new chairlift to a new gondola to new lodging - Vail marketers can argue that Vail offers the latest and greatest.
"New, new, new - to keep that story fresh through this winter with the gondola and the 50th anniversary and then moving forward in the summer with the new on-mountain experiences, that can't be undersold," Romer said.
And the timeline is just right, too, Vlaar said - if everything progresses through the Forest Service as Vail Resorts expects, then some of the new activities should be open by next summer, with others following in 2014 and 2015, the year when a large international community will have its eyes on Vail for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships.
All of the impacts seem positive for now, but the Forest Service's environmental review process will determine if there will be any other impacts. That process should reveal any potential impacts on the town of Vail, such as parking, said Stan Zemler, town manager.
Since Epic Discovery is so new, Zemler said the impacts have only been "tossed around in conversation" as of now. But, the town is discussing its 10-year parking goals at Tuesday's council meeting, so the subject is sure to arise, he said.
"I suspect it will be raised as something we should be taking a look at," Zemler said.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.