Vail Resorts announces plans to reopen in late June or July
Company CEO nixes idea for late-season skiing, putting focus on summer operations
In a Thursday email to employees, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz announced the company’s hope to “have our lifts turning at all of our resorts by late June or early July.”
The email also stated that the company’s retail stores and lodges will be open at that time. That timeline applies to all the company’s North American resorts with summer operations and Australian resorts that are about to start their winter seasons.
The email also states that there will be no late-season skiing at Breckenridge, Heavenly or Whistler Blackcomb.
“As much as I would love to get a few last turns this season, we have made the decision not to reopen this spring,” Katz wrote.
“We know there would be tremendous enthusiasm to get back on snow one last time in North America,” the statement continues. “But we also know that enthusiasm would carry its own impacts, on us and on others — something we think will be more manageable in July.”
Thursday’s news was greeted enthusiastically.
“We’ve been waiting for that,” Vail Chamber & Business Association Director Alison Wadey said.
Vail Town Councilmember Jenn Bruno is also the co-owner of the Luca Bruno clothing shops in Vail. Bruno noted that Vail Mountain is “really the anchor of our business community. To have (Vail Resorts) show confidence means a lot to the business community and the whole valley. It’s a good signal that we can really get the economy really moving again.”
While social distancing and other public health rules will almost certainly still be in place in early July, Bruno said people should be able to keep their distance from each other.
“The mountain is a very large place,” she said.
Bruno added she appreciates that Vail Resorts gave plenty of advance notice of reopening.
At The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon, public relations specialist Julie Dunn said it’s going to take some time to get back up to speed welcoming guests.
The hotel didn’t close when the rest of the valley did. It remained open to condo owners and rooms were available for last-minute stays and reservations made by local residents.
But, Dunn said, the complex has been running with something of a skeleton crew since mid-March.
The Westin’s spa and athletic club opened this month, although observing public health order limits.
In addition, crews at the hotel have installed plexiglass shields at the front desk, and have separated furniture in the lobby areas.
As the valley reopens, there may be some pent-up travel demand, especially from Front Range residents.
Dunn works for The Westin remotely from her Denver-area home, and said she and her neighbors are looking forward to the opportunity to get away and into the mountains.
Vail Valley Partnership President Chris Romer said he also believes there’s pent-up travel demand, especially for those taking “one tank” trips by car.
On the other hand, Romer said there are some “very real limitations” based on economics and unemployment levels.
“We’re really in uncharted waters,” Wadey said. “There’s going to be a lot of trial and error. And people are going to be conservative.”
News about the mountains opening dovetails with a lot of planning on how to welcome and entertain guests.
At The Westin, Dunn said the hotel is coming up with different packages for guests. And, she added, there are hiking trails, bike paths along the Eagle River, ziplines and fly-fishing, activities people can enjoy while still staying at a safe distance from others.
Wadey is also a member of the Vail Commission on Special Events. She said that group’s most recent meeting dedicated a lot of time to discussions about activities.
As ideas gel about reopening, people at Vail Health say they’re ready to help if needed.
“Through proactive measures and proper planning, Eagle County has successfully prevented the curve in our community, and it is vital for our local economy, as a tourist destination, for Vail Resorts to reopen in some capacity,” said Vail Health President and CEO Will Cook. “As the community’s health care system, Vail Health is prepared to welcome visitors and second homeowners back into our area and has the capacity to accommodate the Valley’s physical and behavioral health needs.”
Reopening will take some time, and a lot of work, but Wadey said the valley’s business owners are ready for the challenge.
“We’re from a valley and a county that’s filled with a bunch of hard workers, people who have built businesses from nothing,” Wadey said. “People want to get back to work and get guests back to the valley. … We have a very defined understanding of what our brand is. I’m confident.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com.