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Fitness could fuel Vail’s economy

Lauren Glendenning
lglendenning@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Vail Daily file photo
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VAIL – When you think of health and wellness, you might picture a woman doing yoga, someone drinking wheatgrass or maybe a masseuse performing a hot stone massage.

You might picture hockey players, tennis camps, gardeners picking fresh produce, chefs cooking with local ingredients or spa treatments like facials or mud baths.

As the town of Vail tries to attract more people here in the offseasons, with the main goal of filling more hotel rooms in town, the definition of health and wellness that town leaders are going with has to do with outdoor recreation and fitness, specifically.



“I’ve been trying to use a different phrase of ‘outdoor sports, fitness and wellness,'” said Beth Slifer, chair of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Board and one of the main proponents of making a health and wellness a bigger component to the Vail economy. “It means people participating in a healthy way to improve their health and a sense of physical well being, which (usually) involves outdoor activity.”

The race to add a third leg to Vail’s economy has picked up in recent months and the health and wellness phenomenon is the leader in terms of ideas that could increase business throughout the year. Leaders think health- and wellness-related events and offerings are the town’s answer to turning the economy around during non-winter months.



Vail Town Councilwoman Kerry Donovan brought up at a recent council meeting that she, along with many other people in the community, don’t really understand what exactly health and wellness means in the context of it invigorating Vail’s year-round economy.

“My confusion kind of comes from every person I talk to in the community,” Donovan said. “When they start talking about health and wellness, what comes after that phrase is very different from person to person. … if we’re going to pursue it as a substantial economic engine for Vail, then I would hope we all have a common image of what that is.”

Town Manager Stan Zemler said the definition should be somewhat broad, though, because health and wellness would be the third leg on a stool that already includes skiing and recreation.



Skiing and recreation are already assets in town, said Kelli McDonald, Vail’s economic development manager, so health and wellness activities are meant to build on those core assets that involve outdoor sports.

“Outdoor sports, fitness and wellness aspects – we’ll start with that because we can own it,” McDonald said. “In the context we’re using it, we’re talking about your physical wellness. It’s more in the physical arena.”

The town has already scheduled a trail running camp, cycling clinics and women’s ice hockey camp this summer.

The reason why the town is running with the outdoor sports and physical definition is simple: It’s what the town’s consultant, James Chung of Reach Advisors, has identified as a major new pattern in spending within the American population.

In a presentation Chung gave to Vail’s Economic Advisory Council last month, Chung revealed that all U.S. companies with double-digit sales increases in 2009 had some involvement in outdoor fitness.

“Fitness-oriented health spending outperformed other discretionary health spending,” Chung said. “And outdoor outperformed indoor.”

Chung calls 2009 a “watershed year for new behaviors,” where fitness wellness has become the only category where increases in discretionary spending were seen.

“Fitness wellness is replacing luxury as the new marker of wealth,” Chung said.

That’s what town leaders trying to bring business to Vail want to hear – that those interested in outdoor sports, fitness and wellness also have money to spend.

McDonald said the town isn’t going to leave out other aspects of health and wellness, those that include medical, emotional and cultural wellness, but that outdoor recreation is where Vail can cash in and cash in quickly.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.


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