Parking, pampering key elements of Vail Mountain Club
AVON Back in the day, people who knew doorman Kevin Foley could get the best tables at Vail Mountains Cook Shack restaurant. Now, a portion of what Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek have to offer is for members only.During a little more than a decade, Vail Resorts has gone full-bore into the business of pampering its well-heeled customers with private clubs from Vail to Wolcott. The latest of those clubs is the Vail Mountain Club, the promise of which is, simply, more and better.The Vail Mountain Club is just a hole in the ground at the moment, part of Vail Resorts Front Door project near the Vista Bahn Express chairlift. That large development will include mountainside duplexes, condos, hotel rooms and shops. When the project is done, the Vail Mountain Club will be just a few yards from the Vista Bahn. Those who buy full memberships will pull into an underground parking garage. A valet will meet members at the entrance and take their cars. Another valet will have members skis and gear ready. Those members will then be able to have breakfast, read a paper or browse the Internet before heading out to a day of skiing.At the end of the day, members can store their gear in their own lockers, shower, change, maybe get a massage, send their skis out for a tune, have a drink, then pick up the car, warmed up and ready to go. Other members presumably those with homes in or near Vail Village can pay less for all the clubs other perks without the valet parking.The lure of parkingThe perks and slopeside convenience and especially the parking got Barb Murray of Singletree to write a check for a full membership. With a real estate office on Bridge Street, Murray plans to take advantage of the clubs close-in parking just about every day.Parking in Vail is nothing short of dreadful, Murray said. And, she added, parking garages that already hold plenty of construction workers vehicles wont see any relief for at least the next few years.The lure of close-in parking got Gordon Hofstein to sign up, too. Hofstein, who lives near Boston, has a place in Bachelor Gulch. He spends several weeks a year in Eagle County now and plans to spend the whole ski season here in the next few years. I love to ski Vail, Hofstein said. But the problem we found is that Vails not very inviting to drive to.Hofstein bought a parking space at the Vail Gateway building, but when he got a letter about the Vail Mountain Club all the members of Vail Resorts current clubs got one he quickly signed up. Besides the lure of close-in parking, Hofstein paid for his membership for the promised service and the chance to make new friends.The club sceneWhat makes a club is its members and the social fabric they create, said Vail Resorts Development Co. Vice President for Club Development Pat Donovan. Were trying to create some new traditions here.One of the lessons learned from the resort companys other clubs is the importance of providing ways for members to get to know one another, ranging from snowshoe tours in the winter to members-only bike tours in Europe in the summer.Members also expect fine dining without crowds, something the clubs at Beaver Creek and Vail already provide.I love Zachs (at Beaver Creek), Hofstein said. Its nice to sit down to a nice meal without trays crashing and all the noise.While Donovan and his team already seem to be doing a lot right the resort companys existing clubs have about 3,500 members he said there are plenty of learned lessons being applied at Vail Mountain Club.We learned from the Passport Club at Golden Peak that we need to build enough lockers for everyone, Donovan said. The Passport Club, which was built mostly for close-in parking, can run short of locker space on busy weekends, he said. Another lesson is that theres no such thing as too much service.At Red Sky (a golf club in Wolcott), our attendants know what the guests are doing, Donovan said. If someones leaving right away, or staying for a drink, his cars there and waiting when hes ready to leave. It just happens for them.What members expectThe kind of service club members expect is related to the price of high-end real estate, Murray said.People buy $8 million or $10 million or $12 million homes without batting an eye, Murray said. Theyre used to having affiliated services like this, as well as the social aspect.Hofstein bought his club membership early, but Donovan said sales have heated up since Vail Resorts decided to include a lifetime ski pass with every membership. That pass good for a member and one other person can be handed down once during its 60-year life. Donovan said at least one member with a couple of kids decided to buy two memberships, to avoid any fights during probate.The ski pass was an added bonus for Murray, who can already see herself parking at the club, carving a few turns, then spending a few hours at the office. Joining these clubs isnt cheap. A full membership with parking at the Vail Mountain Club is $100,000, plus annual dues. But like members at other Vail Resorts Clubs, members can also quit the club after a few years and get their initial membership fee back.Vail Resorts doesnt talk about specifics of its business outside the confines of its quarterly reports. But Donovan did say that more than 100 of the clubs 450 memberships 150 of which have parking had been sold. And the company is ready to raise the membership fees on March 8.Hofstein acknowledges that the price of entry into the club was pretty steep. But its worth it to him. And, he said, hes not alone.I think itll sell out quickly, he said. I think its great.Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.