Vail Valley businesses react to Gov. Polis telling older travelers to avoid mountain resorts
Some say caution is warranted; others wish the governor hadn't urged older, sick guests to stay away
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Was it good or bad that Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday called for older people, or those with chronic health issues, to stay away from mountain resorts? It depends on who you ask.
On one side are people including Buzz Schleper of Buzz’s Boards in Vail. Schleper believes Polis was “totally off base” in his request.
“There’s nothing healthier than getting out of the city and into the mountains,” Schleper said. “You couldn’t be safer” wearing a helmet, goggles, gloves and a neck gaiter, he added.
Mike Brumbaugh of Venture Sports said Polis’ remarks reminded him of then-Gov. Bill Owens’ remarks during the 2002 Hayman Fire. At that time, Owens said, “it looks as if all of Colorado is burning today.”
With that in mind, Brumbaugh said he feels “much safer here than in a major city.”
Vail Town Councilmember Jenn Bruno is co-owner of the Luca Bruno clothing stores in town.
Bruno said “we all have to be careful,” but added she doesn’t believe Vail and mountain resort communities are “less safe than anywhere else.”
The impact of the COVID-19 virus is already being felt in Vail Village, Bruno said.
Fewer people in town
“I’ve seen less people walking around (Vail Village),” Bruno said. “All businesses are feeling the anxiety from a health and economic standpoint.”
Bruno noted that she and other business owners are worried about the final weeks of this ski season. But, she added, people she’s talked to “understand that safety is the most important factor.”
Michael Slevin, the owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties real estate, was born and raised in the Vail Valley.
Slevin called the current situation with COVID-19 “unprecedented.” But, he added, the valley has been through several other unprecedented situations. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were unprecedented, he said. So was the national housing crisis that began in 2007. The wildfires of 2018 were unprecedented, too.
Slevin said when he read Polis’ remarks about coming to the mountains, he was understanding.
“The health and well-being, especially of those at high risk, takes priority over what we’re doing here,” he said. “Vail, the Vail Valley and Beaver Creek, will be here when the risk subsides. We’ll welcome (guests) back.”
Until the turnaround, though, “Our community is going to need to rally to support one another,” Slevin said.
But when the turnaround starts is anyone’s guess right now. That uncertainty isn’t helpful.
West Vail Liquor Mart co-owner Laurie Mullen is a member of the Vail Economic Advisory Committee. Mullen said her first reaction to Polis’ comments was, “Did I just hear that right?”
But, she added, there’s a lot unknown about the course of the virus.
Respecting professional opinion
“Everyone is trying to be smart,” Mullen said, adding that she’s confident in the steps being taken by public health professionals.
“We have great professionals doing the best they can,” she said.
Mullen noted that her take on the governor’s comments was twofold. First, the mountain resorts have a lot of visitation from other places. Second, medical facilities are limited in those resort communities.
“I respect that everyone’s trying to be cautious and careful,” she said.
Vail resident and real estate broker Mark Gordon said he’s still showing homes to clients. But there aren’t as many showings these days.
Still, Gordon said his feeling is that state and other public health officials “know what they’re doing. They wouldn’t say that if it wasn’t the right thing to say.”
While no one knows what the next 30 days — or even the next 72 hours — might bring, Vail officials are working on contingency plans.
Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar said the Vail Local Marketing District has talked about adjusting its summer marketing efforts. The district already had $50,000 set aside for those efforts.
Beyond holding off on advertising right now, Vlaar said marketing will be directed more toward a drive-up market — but not right now.
Vlaar said that effort is similar to the 2009 “Vail All The Love” campaign launched in 2009. That effort directed marketing money toward Colorado’s Front Range and included promotions and other incentives.
Still, Vlaar said, the marketing efforts are still in flux, depending on future developments with COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Schleper is riding lifts.
“Skiing is the safest thing you can do right now,” he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.