Gotta change with times |

Gotta change with times

Kaye Ferry

March sales tax numbers are out and they were not great. In fact, they were so “not great” that they were worse than March 2003 when the war broke out.

So this bears some looking into. How is this possible? Well the excuse this year is the lack of March snow. Could that possibly be worse than a war? And anyone of us who lives here knows that, OK, we didn’t have the typical big powder days in March but nonetheless, skiing was great. How can anyone deny those warm sunny days and that creamy slush in the Back Bowls? Not to mention that the front of the mountain held its own almost to the end-particularly on top.

I’m not going to give the traveling public credit for being savvy to the weather in Vail as some would like to use as another possible explanation. Sure, they can access the Internet and see what’s going on. I do it myself when I’m about to head to Mexico, for example. But it’s more as a point of reference than with the idea of actually canceling my plans if there’s a cloud in the forecast.

I predict all of these theories will be full of major holes when April’s numbers hit the street. Because surely, if any of these notions are valid, April should be a disaster. But they won’t be. And there’s a good reason why. It’s because in April we decided to become something more than a ski resort. We gave people options to come to the mountains and enjoy things other than the snow.

The travel industry is changing as a result of the traveling public changing. They want more. In April, we gave it to them.

We started out with the newly minted Vail Film Festival. By anyone’s standards, it was a huge success, bringing guests from both coasts and bringing locals out in record numbers. If the industry standards prove to be correct, the event should be two to three times larger next year. This year 5,000 attended.

And of course, we followed that with the Taste of Vail, which has grown over the years and has developed its own destination guest base.

We then moved into the second annual Spring Back to Vail celebration with tons of on-mountain activities, concerts and discounts. In between we had the Vail Mountain Marathon and the conclusion to Street Beat.

The point is, we diversified. We offered lots of things for lots of people, and I think April’s sales tax numbers will show that it worked.

Oh sure, Easter moved into April, as well, so that helped. Somebody at Vail Resorts even said that we’ve been taking March too much for granted. We’ve been lulled into thinking March will happen the same way that Christmas happens with little or no effort on our part.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that every year we come up with some justification as to why some part of the season didn’t meet our expectations. But at the end of it all, we need to learn to cover our bases a little better so that if something fails, something else is there to make up the difference. April has always been a marginal month for business. This year we proved it didn’t have to be that way.

We have to start adjusting, and the sooner we do it, the better off we’ll be. Of course we can never forget our skiing heritage. But we have to learn to change with the times and adapt to the expectations of our guests. If we don’t, they’ll make other choices. When they do, we can hypothesize until the cows come home and we’ll still be trying in vain to identify what scourge was thrust upon us unwittingly.

The alternative is to continue to create more “Aprils” all year long. We can be the motivating force in revitalizing Vail and its economy instead of feeling like unwitting victims when things don’t fall into place as we had hoped. We can’t control wars or the weather.

Hoping is a wonderful thing. But planning for a better future is the key. It’s our choice to make.

SPEAKING OF THE VAIL FILM FESTIVAL: Did you read The New York Times on Sunday? Right there in the entertainment section under movies was an ad for “Seeing Other People.” It’s a great story about a couple quickly approaching their wedding day and getting cold feet. Well actually, she’s the one with the twitching tootsies, which is a modern version of how it’s historically been. She decides they need to see other people before they tie the knot – hence the title.

It was a funny movie with some really good acting and ultimately proved the point that the grass isn’t always greener. But the exciting part of The New York Times ad was that the little fleur de lis sort of emblem that indicates that the film won an award somewhere. In this case it indicated that “Seeing Other People” won best film at – you guessed it – the Vail Film Festival.

I’ve always wondered if those were promos or real awards. In this case, I can vouch for it. A real award was given right here at our very first ever film festival. Right up there with other little fleur de lis from Sundance and Cannes and Toronto and Tribeca and … WOW!

Do your part: call them and write them.

To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail For past columns, or search: ferry.

Kaye Ferry, a longtime observer of Vail, writes a weekly column for the Daily.

Support Local Journalism