Vail Chamber: Offseason an opportunity to prepare for what’s coming (column)
As the leaves begin to emerge around us and the mud of offseason is replaced with spring wildflowers, there’s a growing awareness that the summer season is just around the corner.
In Southern California, where my hospitality journey began, the year-round, steady stream of guests and lack of seasons gave me a special appreciation for living and working in the mountains. Spring and fall occupancies afford us the opportunity to scale back staffing levels, allowing members of our teams to escape for surf trips to Mexico, treks to Europe or Asia, desert mountain biking trips to Utah or simply exploring our own amazing state.
As the last of my team’s offseason adventures wind down and we look forward to the activity of summer, I’m reminded of some sage advice I received about a month into my last work assignment in Grand Teton National Park, where we fully closed the doors to guests from October until May.
It was a chilly mid-February morning and I’d walked in snow for the half mile between my house and the slumbering Jackson Lake Lodge in its annual boarded-up state. Along the way, I’d watched out for the neighborhood moose and calf that were known to chase staff down the street in the middle of the winter. For the few of us living in the middle of the park during the offseason, there was no question who the outsiders were once the tourists departed.
I’d just unbundled, sat down at my desk and opened up my computer when our vice president and general manager poked his head in and asked if I had a few minutes to chat.
Over the course of a quick conversation, he provided me with advice that was instrumental to my succeeding in that role over the next five years. What he told me was that it’s easy to get complacent when it seems like there’s nothing to do. He explained that what I had the discipline to get done now was going to be exactly what determined how successful we all were in the middle of July.
I took the advice to heart and spent the next three months keeping myself busy with thoughtful and pointed preparations for summer and doing my best to resist the temptation to check Facebook or shop online during the middle of the work day.
As it turned out, when the south gate to Yellowstone opened in conjunction with the arrival of our large population of seasonal employees and a steady stream of motor coaches filled with hungry parkgoers, I was truly appreciative of that poke from my boss to get it in gear in the dead of our “offseason.”
While the Grand Teton National Park hospitality experience is an extreme version of what goes on here in Vail, the parallels can’t be avoided. As leaders in our hotels, restaurants and retail shops work to get staffed up, make sure our facilities are looking good and inventories are properly stocked to serve Vail’s summer visitors who will soon begin arriving, I’d wager that more than a few of us feel we could have taken better advantage of our down time to get ready for what’s ahead.
Since my return to Colorado, I’ve had conversations with longtime locals who bemoan the “disappearance of the offseason in Vail,” and I have to admit a few more weeks of preparation time could easily have been filled with productive work ahead of what I know is coming. For this reason, I’m grateful to have been given a sense of offseason urgency in my last role that I’ve made efforts to pass along to the team I work with now.
As we make final preparations to launch into another busy summer season of concerts, festivals, weddings, memorable adventures on the mountain and providing world-class guest service experiences throughout the town, I’m excited to be a part of sharing our remarkable community with visitors who will come from all over the world to enjoy our paradise in the heart of the Rockies. For anyone still having trouble shifting out of offseason gear, here’s a friendly poke. We’re ready at The Arrabelle.
Zach Meyers is general manager of The Arrabelle at Vail Square and is a board member of the Vail Chamber & Business Association.