Council members talk Vail’s relationship with Vail Resorts at retreat

One council member: Vail Resorts has ‘forgotten they’re in the hospitality business’

Vail Town Council members at a Tuesday retreat wondered about the town’s current and future relationship with Vail Resorts.
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The Vail Town Council does a lot of talking, but the group every couple of years takes some time to talk and think.

Council members gathered Tuesday for a retreat to talk about the state of the town, both today and in the future. They also took a good bit of time to talk about the town’s mission, and how various initiatives were shaping up to meet the town’s economic, environmental and community goals.

As you’d expect, Vail Resorts came up frequently during a discussion about the town’s current vision statement, which sets a goal of being “The premier international mountain resort community.”

The relationship between the town and resort company is a big part of that mission, of course.

“I’m concerned with our partner up on the mountain,” council member Kevin Foley said. “How do we get that resolved?”

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Council member Jen Mason added that her view is that the town’s values don’t align with those of the resort company.

“They’re not respecting where we live,” Mason said, adding that the community has lost trust in the resort company.

“I get it, they’re a big corporation in a small town,” Mason said, adding she understands the town’s relationship with the company will never be the same as it was when Vail Associates — and Vail Resorts in its early days — just ran Vail and Beaver Creek.

Council member Jonathan Staufer said Vail’s mission as a resort is to make people happy and want to come back. Vail Resorts, he said, has “forgotten they’re in the hospitality business.”

While the resort company this season has faced growing criticism in the mountain communities where it operates, council member Travis Coggin said the town and its businesses should “define the experience” for guests. And, he added, Vail Resorts may not be doing as bad a job as so many say.

Coggin noted that he went skiing Sunday, Feb. 6, a day when roughly 450 cars were parked on the town’s frontage roads.

“I never waited more than five or 10 minutes (in a lift line),” Coggin said, cautioning that the presence of cars on the frontage roads isn’t necessarily a sign of too much crowding on the mountain.

Council member Pete Seibert, the son and namesake of Vail’s co-founder, said what’s new in the questions of mountain capacity is the fact that Vail Resorts has roughly doubled its lift capacity in the past several years. That results in putting more people on the same number of trails.

“Maybe (Vail Resorts needs) to build a few more trails instead of just renaming old ones,” Seibert said.

That said, Seibert acknowledged that the town and resort company are “not as aligned as we need to be.”

Getting back into alignment is going to be important for the community going forward.

During a discussion about some of the biggest threats to the town in coming years, Mayor Kim Langmaid didn’t mince words.

“Our biggest threat is Vail Resorts’ board members and others making decisions without our input,” she said.

Got some time?

Tuesday’s Vail Town Council retreat can be viewed on the town’s website.

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