Vail offering big hug to Front Range |

Vail offering big hug to Front Range

Cliff Thompson
John King of Eagle finishes a powder run on Yonder in Sun Up Bowl.

Steamboat Springs was quick to react to the headlines generated last summer to the perception that Vail merchants weren’t that keen on catering to Front Range skiers.

It erected a billboard visible to all drivers on westbound I-70 out of Denver: “70 percent drier snow. 100 percent friendlier town.”

This week Vail quietly fired back with cooperative ventures utilizing a far less visible media: e-mail and snail mail.

It’s called “Vail Values” and it combines the efforts of Vail merchants and Vail Resorts, which has made its 100,000-strong Steep Savers® e-mail list available to promote Vail.

It’s one of two such programs being rolled out to embrace approximately 500,000 Front Range skiers. It will offer them bargains and discounts to entice them to ski and stay.

Over the last two ski seasons, day and overnight skiers from Colorado accounted for one-fifth of Vail Resorts’ skier days. Last season Vail logged 1.6 million skier days.

With air travel and destination tourism soft, the program is a tacit recognition that there’s money to be made catering to the Front Range or day skier. How to do it was one of the topics of a series of business meetings held this summer and fall on how to reinvigorate business in Vail.

Frustrated by declining sales in town, some merchants blamed it in part on day skiers from the Front Range who visit, ski and leave without staying and spending. Retail sales in Vail have been flattening or declining for nearly a decade. That created headlines and the impression that Vail didn’t want Front Range skiers.

“Vail Loves You’

A second program to be rolled out next month by the Vail Chamber and Business Association and Vail Resorts is called “Vail Loves You.” It will direct-mail 40,000 discount coupons to Front Range Skiers who hold Colorado passes.

“Both programs are a response to some of the conversations this summer that there was concern in the community that Vail didn’t appreciate the buzz generated by in-state skiers,” said Bill Jensen, Vail Mountain chief operating officer. “This is a community-wide initiative to enhance Vail’s image and to promote community business to in-state skiers.”

Jensen said businesspeople in Vail approached Vail Resorts with the concept.

Coupons in the “Vail Loves You” program will offer half-price parking, two-for-one beverages, discounts on activities and other incentives to visit, Jensen said.

Vail Resorts’ Steep Savers program provides subscribers with e-mailed updates on events, snow conditions and other incentives. While through the Vail Values program, Vail’s merchants can get their messages to these customers without cost.

“Vail Values is definitely a grassroots effort,” said Chris Jarnot, vice president of marketing for Vail Resorts. “Our initial thought was to offer merchants and restaurateurs a means to communicate with in-state skiers and to convince them to stick around and spend more time and money on the days they’re here,”

Market mining

It’s all part of a technological customer-relations management software program being used by companies with a database of clients. It allows previous buying behavior to be “mined” and utilized for sales and marketing opportunities.

“Merchants can utilize the e-mail subscriber base to include photos, deals and all kinds of tidbits,” said Jen Brown, spokeswoman for Vail Resorts. “They can use it to enhance their relationship with customers. When they come to Vail they can learn about places in Vail they may not know.”

Subscribers and merchants will be linked within the weekly e-mail to a page that displays all the offers.

“This is a great opportunity for the businesses of Vail,” said Kenny Friedman, owner of Kenny’s Double Diamond Ski Shop. “In the past, we have not had an affordable way to reach people on the Front Range and throughout the rest of Colorado. We do now.”

Gary Boris of Montauk Seafood Grill in Lionshead said, “We have been working on this for a couple of months. Vail appeals to so many people. We need to communicate this message to our guests, and our potential guests, as often and in as may ways as possible.”

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 970-949-0555 x450 or

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