Vail Resorts’ CEO conducts a Q&A at the Outdoor Retailer show in Denver |

Vail Resorts’ CEO conducts a Q&A at the Outdoor Retailer show in Denver

Jason Blevins

DENVER — “It’s not every day you get to see Darth Vader.”

That quip, from the fellow at a table in a Hyatt Regency convention room Wednesday, is not an uncommon designation for Rob Katz, head of resort industry behemoth Vail Resorts.

Katz has grown accustomed to the “evil empire” analogy since taking the reins of the publicly traded company in 2006 and acquiring nine resorts, including North America’s most trafficked, Whistler Blackcomb. Katz said he was initially reticent to take such a high-profile gig in an industry heavy on emotion and passion.

“It comes with challenges and public feedback. Some good, a lot bad; and in all kinds of online and in-person forms,” he said, addressing the standing-room only crowd in a rare public address that kicked off the “Industry + Intelligence” day of seminars preceding the opening of the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show this week at the Colorado Convention Center.

Katz’s casual and candid talk focused on the innovation at his company, centering on Vail Resorts’ 750,000-plus annual sales of its Epic Pass.

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