Pointing Vail Valley guests toward fun
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – On a snow-spitting Sunday in Gypsum, a group of locals spent part of the day belching lead.
The group – concierges from upvalley lodges – had been invited to the Gypsum Shooting Sports Park by local gun dealer Matt Solomon, of Alpine Arms, and Alan Samuel, of Machine Gun Tours, a Lakewood-based company. The idea was to give the people from the lodges a taste of firearms equivalent of high-priced sports cars. Samuel and his crew brought a dizzying array of modern and vintage firearms. With the exception of one of the cannons – there were two on hand – everything laid out was some form of machine gun.
People who weren’t paying attention jumped when one of the louder guns barked. Those on the firing lines uniformly came away either grinning or open-mouthed in amazement.
Beyond the fun, there was something more serious going on.
Solomon and Samuel had invited the group to a festival of firepower to show off their plan to offer machine-gun-shooting packages to tourists. It’s an expensive way to play, so the local market won’t be enough to keep Machine Gun Tours coming to Gypsum regularly. Solomon and Samuel need tourists of Vail and Beaver Creek to make the idea work. To get those well-heeled clients, they’re going to need referrals, and those referrals need to come from the concierge staffs at local lodges.
While the ski resorts draw winter tourists, not everyone wants to spend an entire Vail Valley vacation on the slopes. That’s when concierges need to have good answers to the inevitable question, “Now what do we do?”
“We have to maintain all knowledge about the valley,” Lodge at Vail chief concierge Eddie Fritchey said. “We need to have all the contact information for our guests.”
That local knowledge includes everything from where to find a doctor or dentist on a moment’s notice to restaurant referrals. And, since a Vail Valley vacation is supposed to be an adventure, a concierge needs to have a ready base of knowledge when a guest decides to cross something off his or her bucket list.
“It’s our job to provide information about what can make this the vacation of a lifetime,” said Alicia Gresley, of the Lodge at Vail. “People spend a lot of money to come out here, so we need to make it special.”
But local knowledge has to come from somewhere. Much of the time, the people who refer guests have at least some first-hand experience. That’s why restaurants often have tastings for people at lodges, and people such as Solomon and Samuel will host events.
The local chapter of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International has a couple of events every year at which people from lodges can pick up samples, business cards and gain at least handshake information about the people looking to pick up business.
Those shows are “essential,” said Mel Stalzer, of the Beaver Creek Resort Co. But, she added, there’s nothing like first-hand experience.
“When we can be passionate about something, we can share that with guests,” she added. “If I haven’t done it, I can’t be as passionate.”
Gresley said she’s ridden horses, snowmobiles and snow bikes, gone on snowshoe hikes and numerous other activities, so she can give guests first-hand insight into what they can expect when they book a trip.
Gresley’s a native of Australia, a country that doesn’t have the kind of gun culture the United States does. She won a quick drawing to fire the day’s one and only shot from a Swedish-built, 1937 vintage Bofors 37-millimeter cannon. She had a ball at the event and said she’d be quick to refer guests to future machine-gun events. Would she feel that way without the
Victor Rossi, of the Sonnenalp, is sort of the godfather of the valley’s concierge community. He’s been in the business for years and has put in plenty of time learning about what’s new.
“You really need to have your finger on the pulse of what’s new and exciting,” Rossi said. And with ziplines, balloon rides and other activities already available, he thinks there could be a place in the valley for machine-gun shooting.
“It’s uncertain if guests will like it,” he said.
That’s why having an enthusiastic concierge can convey the fun of an activity to a guest.
“Most of our guests are from the big cities,” Rossi said. “They don’t get to do any of this.”
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