Independent Vail Valley van companies still competing |

Independent Vail Valley van companies still competing

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” There are days when it seems like Vail Resorts owns pretty much everything in the valley. But Doug Eby still believes there’s room for independent operators.

Eby, of High Country Transportation, is still trying to figure out how Vail Resorts’ planned purchase of Colorado Mountain Express will affect his company.

“It’s going to be tough for the little guys,” Eby said. “So many properties are owned or managed by VR.”

In a Tuesday interview, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said the purchase of Colorado Mountain Express is part of a broader strategy of service to guests.

“It’s not a transportation company,” Katz said. “It’s a service to get people to Colorado ski resorts.”

The idea isn’t new.

Dennis Snow, a business consultant and former Disney employee, said his former employers bought a transportation company, named it “Disney’s Magical Express,” and used it to get people from the airport in Orlando, Fla., to Disney World.

“They’d pick you up, drop you off and your bags would be delivered to your hotel,” Snow said.

“The key, from a business perspective, is the level of the experience,” he added. “The objective wasn’t to take money from people ” although that happened ” but they want to make sure the experience is excellent from start to finish.”

While Vail Resorts may want to capture as much business as possible, Mark Cervantes believes there will always be holes in a big company’s business plan, and it’s up to independents to fill those holes. The ones that do can probably make a pretty good living, he said.

Cervantes, now a partner in ” which books vacations and sells real estate ” is a former concierge and also managed the Holiday Inn in West Vail. He’s been in competition with Vail Resorts in all those ventures.

“If you’re in direct competition with them, you look at what they’re doing, you find the holes and you plug them,” Cervantes said.

Cervantes added that although there are opportunities, Vail Resorts is making it harder for the little guys all the time.

“They can market one more of their products,” he said. “They’ve got more strength, more capacity.”

Given just a few hours to reflect on the news, Eby said he doesn’t expect Colorado Mountain Express’ new ownership to have any huge effect on his business. It’s still the biggest transportation company in the valley, after all.

“It probably won’t change the game too much,” Eby said. “And it probably makes total sense for VR.”

And, Eby said, he’s going to keep working, no matter who’s running the big transportation company.

“All the little independents have to provide superior service at a good price, and we’ll probably do all right,” he said.

Cervantes agreed.

“To a company like ours, it’s whoever does a job most efficiently and at the best price point,” he said. “So we’ll use whoever can meet our guests’ needs.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or

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