Town of Vail making list of priorities | VailDaily.com

Town of Vail making list of priorities

Vail lift line, 1962

VAIL — Both the ski resort and town of Vail are riding high at the moment. But, as the folks on Wall Street often tell us, past results are no guarantee of future performance.

That's why town officials over the past several months have looked at ways to stay atop the mountain resort world. The town earlier this year hired a consulting firm, Boulder-based RRC Associates, to look at what hurdles may face the resort in the future. After a broad-based look at the RRC study in July, and an evaluation of long-term priorities in August, council members will look at making a list of priorities at a Tuesday meeting, set for 10:30 a.m. in the council's meeting room.

Perhaps the biggest thing driving the look into the future is the aging of Vail's current customer base. World War II veterans founded and populated Vail in its early days. Many of those people have either died or are past their ski-resort days. These days, the Baby Boom generation, people born between roughly 1946 and 1964, have the most invested in Vail. The youngest of those people turned 50 this year, with those on the older end of the spectrum approaching their 70th birthdays.

Retain or Attract

As those people either sell their property in Vail or pass it on to their children, there's a need to either retain or attract new customers. Officials are also looking at the ways people get to the resort, whether via Interstate 70 from the Denver area or through the Eagle County Regional Airport.

This isn't the first time town officials have looked at the state of the town and the prospects for its future. Town business and government leaders in the 1990s decided Vail needed a significant facelift, a program that eventually led to nearly a decade of building and renovation.

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Possible Measures

With the town and resort today sporting billions in new investments today, here's a short look at what officials believe will keep Vail in its current position into the foreseeable future:

• Transportation: Both I-70 and the airport need improvements to keep people coming.

• Technology: Government and business leaders hope to find ways to further improve the town's cellular and Internet access.

• Leadership: Younger people are needed to serve on town boards.

• Broadening the town's economic base, encouraging both big business expansion to support for small, entrepreneurial ventures.

Council member Margaret Rogers said it's important for the town to look forward to maintain its competitive edge.

"We want to be sure we're not resting on our laurels," Rogers said. In previous meetings, Rogers has been a strong advocate of adjusting Vail's marketing and events toward younger guests.

Fellow council member Dale Bugby also supports looking ahead, while advocating a more gradual approach.

"I don't think the demographic shift is as bad as we're making it out to be," he said. Bugby added that, while ski industry participation numbers have been flat for some time, experts have for decades been predicting a steeper, faster decline. Still, he said, snowboarding provided a much-needed boost in the 1990s.

Bugby said his preference for long-term success would focus on improving access to the resort, particularly along I-70.

"A plane that brings 200 people to our airport is a drop in the bucket," he said.

Just as important, if not more so, Bugby said community and business leaders need to focus on "little things," including a clean, attractive town and the other building blocks of a great guest experience.

"When I travel, my whole experience can boil down to two or three people," he said.

That said, town officials say they need to find where they could be lagging — particularly while facing new, stronger competition from Utah resorts that Vail Resorts now controls.

It's unlikely the answers will be as dramatic as the Vail Renaissance, but expect at least some change in the way the town markets itself to both current and future guests.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

To learn more

The Vail Town Council is set to discuss ways to keep the town in a “leadership position” at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 2 in the council’s meeting room. To view the staff report, go to http://www.vailgov.com.