Son of Vail founder on Whistler deal: ‘Finally, they bought a real mountain!’
VAIL — Pete Seibert laughed when he said this, but he meant it, too: “Finally, they bought a real mountain!”
Seibert, the son and namesake of one of Vail’s founders, was among a few hundred people who turned out Tuesday for a Vail community picnic at the Donovan Pavilion. Talking with friends, Seibert said Monday’s announcement that Vail Resorts will acquire the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia is a good move for the company.
“It’s a great mountain and the Canadians are great people,” Seibert said. “I think it’s a great association (for Vail Resorts).”
Mary Sackbauer grew up in the Vail Valley but has spent a good bit of time at Whistler and loves it.
“There’s nothing like it,” she said.
That includes the 5,000-foot vertical climb from the base village to the mountaintop, which means a gondola ride can start in the rain, go through the clouds and end up on a snowy mountaintop.
Vail locals won’t be able to take their Epic Passes to Whistler until the start of the 2017-18 season. Still, Vail resident John-Ryan Lockman said he’s looking forward to heading north sometime that winter.
“I think everyone in the community has secretly wanted this,” Lockman said. “As long as the Epic Pass price doesn’t go through the roof, I think lots of locals will go.”
There isn’t a lot of information about the deal aside from a fairly extensive press release from Vail Resorts, so there’s been no indication about the future of pass prices.
On the other hand, Vail homeowner Randy Guerriero said he expects Vail Resorts to sell a bunch of passes north of the border.
“By my math, they’ll sell 250,000 more Epic Passes in Canada,” he said.
Even having North America’s largest ski resort in the pass program may not be enough to lure some current pass holders.
Lee Turtletaub was standing in the food line next to Lockman. The longtime Vail homeowner said he and his family love Vail, and he’s always wanted to try Whistler.
“But we usually have a week or 10 days (for a vacation),” Turtletaub said.
Going somewhere besides the place the family already has a place would be difficult, he said.
Doug Kirkpatrick and his wife spend about half their time at their place in Vail these days. Kirkpatrick said Monday’s deal looks like a good one, for both the resort company and Whistler. Kirkpatrick said he has relatives who ski at one of Vail Resorts’ urban ski areas.
“They’ve put a lot of money to improve the experience there,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that’s possible at Whistler, too.
Lockman said he hopes some of Whistler’s summer expertise makes its way to Colorado.
“(Vail Resorts) should definitely bring (Whistler’s) mountain bike trail builders here,” Lockman said.
OTHER WAYS TO SPEND $1B
While most see promise in the deal, not everyone is keen on the $1 billion purchase. A few people, who either work for the company or simply didn’t want their names used in a story, said they believe the company should have used its money for employee raises and other improvements at the resorts it runs now.
Byron Brown was more than happy to attach his name to his opinions. Brown and his wife, Vi, have lived in the valley for more than 50 years, and he doesn’t much care what anyone thinks of anything he says.
“I think (Vail Resorts) should spend some of their money to solve the parking here,” Brown said. “And housing, too.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.
Tourism and outdoor recreation employ a lot of people, but those workers’ wages are below county and regional averages.