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A healthy independence

Don Rogers

In addition, the CEO and other senior executives have managed to keep their noses clean during this episode of bad boy corporation hotshots, several of whom have ties to the Vail Valley.

The company manages itself well, generally looks ahead better than anyone here (witness their water situation), and has even managed to grow during a recession.

We also understand that a number of merchants in Vail, Lionshead and Beaver Creek, who see the company succeeding while they struggle, are a mite reluctant to share this view. They’ve also been slow to adjust to changing times. We wonder if Vail Resorts will feel some of this bite with its newly acquired hotels, for whom business has been especially tough nationwide since the terrorist attacks Sept. 11. Such are the perils of vertical integration.



We think well of them, certainly, but even sycophants such as we are well short of accepting their views automatically as gospel.

For example, it would be a mistake for Avon to provide $6 million to help the ski company build a gondola running from a Vail Resorts island in town up to Beaver Creek, as requested. Whatever the business reasons for the ski company, it doesn’t make much sense for the town of Avon to cough up taxpayer money for a venture that should rise or fall on its business merits.



Another place we break with the VR wisdom is in the case of the affordable housing project at Vail’s Mountain Bell site. Ski company leaders have turned tepid, mildly disapproving of the size of the project in the face of objections from the Vail Village Homeowners Association and Spraddle Creek neighbors overlooking the site where buildings up to five stories high are planned.

So far, the town authorities are holding true to the project, – which has been in the works for the past year, already played to several well-publicized open houses with little public participation, and is just now entering the gantlet of the approval process.

With all due respect to the ski company, it’s healthy for the town to go its own way, to exercise its independence from the corporation that runs the mountain.



It’s OK if Vail Resorts – which, after all, has done fairly well on the affordable housing front for its employees – does not make use of the 142 units planned in this complex, named Middle Creek. The company hasn’t bought up the entire town quite yet. There are still workers and businesses not affiliated with Vail Resorts that would benefit greatly from the venture.

The town’s leaders will need to exercise strength of purpose to hold to the commitment to address a critical need for such housing, though. The largely second-home owners – 70 percent of the properties are owned by nonresidents – and the Spraddle Creek residents are among the most powerful in town, all pooh-poohing about their lack of suffrage notwithstanding. Literally, and more figuratively than they’ll let on, they own this town.

But Vail is bleeding “ordinary” residents and has been for some time. The merchant class has long observed the western migration of the workers, and now the job growth is practically metastasizing west of Dowd Junction, as well.

Vail would make a serious mistake caving to the moneyed interests who are still grasping for a reasonable argument against the Middle Creek apartments.

No doubt the project is imperfect, as everything in life must be. But it’s a solid step forward on the affordable housing front, will not hurt anyone in the long run, and will prove to be the right thing to do at just the right time. And at the right place.

In addition, Vail Resorts execs in time will feel free to admit that they are indeed wrong, from time to time. That’s healthy, too.

D.R.


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