Merchants trying to rev up Lionshead |

Merchants trying to rev up Lionshead

Scott N. Miller

VAIL – Doing business in a construction zone is tough.As machinery clanked and rumbled just outside, a group of Lionshead business owners gathered inside Bart & Yeti’s restaurant to talk about ideas to bring a few more customers through their doors.There to listen were three executives from Vail Resorts and a small contingent from the town government. One of the big topics was the signs sprinkled around Lionshead that try to guide tourists around the area.”The signs have been good for some businesses, but they’ve been brutal for others,” said Craig Alford of Vail Ski and Bike Tech. “Some people have actually gotten hurt by the signs.”The signs will probably change, and soon. Vail spokeswoman Suzanne Silverthorn had a pair of signs for the business owners to look at. She said with some immediate help from merchants on the final design, the new signs could be in place by Monday or Tuesday.Then there’s the gondola.Some merchants have been clamoring for Vail Resorts to provide free gondola rides as a way to bring tourists into Lionshead.But Bill Jensen, chief operating executive for mountain operations at Vail, said the resort company won’t do that without some help. It costs Vail Resorts about $300,000 per summer to run the gondola, Jensen said. That cost is covered by riders.The resort company has offered to put up $100,000 to cover the costs of a free ride program. But, Jensen said, that’s it.”That’s not chicken feed,” Jensen said. When Beaver Creek ran free chairlift rides when parts of that resort were under construction a few years ago, the resort company – essentially a mix of homeowners and businesses – came up with a big part of the money to pay for the service.”You need to look to that model,” Jensen said.A request to the town council to help with next year’s gondola service may come. But no matter the cost of gondola rides, another resort company executive urged the merchants to look for other answers to keep customers coming through the doors.”The gondola is one of a lot of things you can do,” Brian McCartney said. “Let it be a focus, but not the focus of what you do.”No matter the cost of gondola rides, getting to the gondola is a concern for both merchants and the resort company. McCartney said tourists will be able to get to the gondola from the Lionshead plaza from this winter on.”Nobody wants a path to the gondola more than me,” he said.With new signs coming and ideas bubbling for guiding tourists from one end of Lionshead plaza, the manager of one condominium complex left the meeting feeling better, if not upbeat.Meetings like the one Thursday are useful, said Jeff Jacobs of the Westwind Condominiums.”It’s good for the merchants to get together and talk,” he said.And, while businesses in Lionshead face a potentially rocky couple of years, “I think we’re all happy with the big picture,” Jacobs said.================Help on the wayHere’s what’s happening to help Lionshead merchants• New and better signs• A walking map• Advertising, partially paid for by Vail Resorts==================Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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