Can Vail re-define luxury? |

Can Vail re-define luxury?

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” Bir-gitta Lunden, of Sweden, and her family have talked about skiing in Vail, Colorado for years.

They finally did it this year, skiing in Vail and Beaver Creek for a week ” but it won’t happen again next year, thanks to the economy.

“We love to ski, and we’ve been planning this for one-and-a-half years,” she said. “We’re quite a normal family. This is a nice experience for us. We’ll probably go on vacation next year, but next time it will be in Europe.”

Lunden’s family is one of many who may be changing the way they spend their money on vacations in the coming years, according to some Vail leaders and marketing experts. People will be looking for value and more conscious of their spending, said Kent Logan, a retired investment banker and former Vail town councilman.

Vail’s customer in 2011 will be looking for something different than the customer of 2007, Logan said ” and the resort and town better figure out how to attract that customer.

“It’s clear the Vail market has changed. The whole age of conspicuous spending is over,” he said. “Even the people who have money will be more conscious of spending it. It will be all about value.”

He points to the success of the Epic Pass as one way to redefine the Vail image and the meaning of value, he said.

Logan has urged Vail leaders to be ready for the post-recession period by studying the best way to address its customers.

The town and Vail Resorts have already taken some steps ” they already have organized a collaborative marketing campaign for Vail, and Vail Resorts has announced that the Epic Pass will return next season.

Even some customers who have come to Vail on vacation this year admit that the economy has changed their spending habits.

New Jersey resident Howard Lavin brought his family on vacation to Vail this year for a week of skiing. The trip was booked months in advance before the economy took a nosedive, but next year he thinks more vacationers will be affected.

“It certainly will make us more cognizant of what we’re doing for the next several vacations,” Lavin said. “It might change our habits.”

New York skier Matthew Hanley said the economy won’t stop his family from coming on ski vacations, but he’s definitely on the lookout for deals, he said.

“It’s a different environment,” Hanley said. “We’re trying to economize here and there and just generally look at our expenses.”

Vail should focus on redefining luxury, said Graham Button of Genesis, Inc., a Denver-based marketing firm working with Vail’s marketing committee.

“Luxury has become a dirty word with the recession,” he said “Instead, the focus is on quality time.”

However, he added that during the recession, Vail needs to play up its reputation and appeal.

“I believe that when times are tough, people spend their money more carefully,” Button said. “They buy the things they trust in. Vail already has that trust, and the job is to make the most of that trust.”

The Vail appeal is one reason Indiana resident Vicki Downs and her family chose to book their yearly ski vacation this year.

The family has been coming to Vail to ski for about 10 years, sometimes even with their extended relatives. While the economy might cause them to cut back in some aspects, they still chose to spend on their Vail trip, she said.

“This is our major vacation of the year,” said Downs, who came with her husband and 5-year-old son. “If we cut back, it’ll be on our other vacations.”

However, the family did book the vacation one month in advance instead of four months in advance in hope of good deals, and they opted to drive instead of fly. They’re also not parking in the town’s parking structures, which are too expensive, Downs said.

However, once here, the family is spending as much as usual, Downs said ” her son is in ski school and the family still dines out as usual.

“We’re fortunate to be able to do this,” she said. “Also, when you come out one week a year, you make the most of it.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

Support Local Journalism