Vail Daily opinion: In pursuit of being No. 1
April 19, 2017
Vail used to be No. 1 a lot in the Ski Magazine annual ranking of western resorts. When we were No. 1, we had fun. We had parades — where we were given larger-than-life, Styrofoam No. 1 index fingers, community leaders were visible, etc. If we are No. 1 again, then would we have some of that silliness or are we too jaded and "corporate" for that sort of stuff?
The last resort ranking had Vail as No. 4, with Whistler-Blackcomb as No. 1. Since Vail Resorts now owns this resort, is there any real push or concern for Vail to be No. 1 again? As to the rankings themselves, some would say the whole thing is rigged to allow a rotation of No. 1 awards. So do we say don't get too lathered up about the rankings as long as the guests keep coming and the money keeps flowing?
I think not. There are a lot of folks who put a lot of effort and professionalism in their jobs and wouldn't mind being part of a No. 1 big picture. They include those working with not only Vail Resorts, but also the town of Vail, Vail Valley Medical Center, other health and fitness providers, restaurants, retail, lodging and many others.
So where does Vail stand that put us as No. 4 in the rankings? Currently there are 18 rating categories in the latest Ski Magazine, Resort Guide (rated from 1 to 38). I'll put them into three groupings:
• Eight fully under control of Mother Nature or Vail Resorts: Challenge (No. 19), grooming (No. 5), lifts (No. 8), on-mountain food (No. 10), scenery (No. 26), snow (No. 11), terrain parks (No. 10) and terrain variety (No. 6).
• Seven mixed or not controlled by Vail Resorts: Accessibility (No. 20), apres scene (No. 3), dinning (No. 6), kid friendliness (No. 16), lodging (No. 11), off-hill activities (No. 7) and value (No. 38).
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• Three ill-defined, purely gut feel and open ended: Character (No. 23), service (No. 19) and overall satisfaction (No. 23).
Then each resort is given the top three of strengths and weaknesses. For Vail they are:
• The strengths: Apres scene (No. 3), grooming (No. 5) and terrain variety (No. 6).
• The weaknesses: Value (No. 38), scenery (No. 26) and character (No. 23).
Finally, the "missing three" categories — those that could really help Vail:
• Ski and Snowboard School: We've got the pros who serve the guests and frequently are leaders in trends and training within the skiers and riders professional organization.
• Retail and Rental: knowing the whole line from clothing to skis and boards, coupled with the masters at boot fitting.
• On-mountain safety awareness: an untouched opportunity, given some major conviction, creativity and substance behind it.
So if there was to be a concerted, joint effort to move up in the rankings — with support from all the players or their representatives — then where would they start? Perhaps:
• Highlight and explain the ill-defined three.
• Put substance and emphasis on the "Missing Three."
• Address Value (No. 38) head on with some substantive changes and comprehensive marketing.
It's unlikely Vail Resorts could impact Ski Magazine's 18 categories by adding the Missing Three. But with cooperative leadership — across the diverse elements of what we call "Vail" — perhaps we can move the needle closer to or be at No. 1!
Paul Rondeau is a longtime Vail resident.
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