Vail Valley ignores the House of Mouse at its peril |

Vail Valley ignores the House of Mouse at its peril

Scott N. MillerVail, CO, Colorado

To Disney, or not to Disney? We need to figure this out already.Twice over the next few months, local chambers of commerce are hosting seminars about the Disney way of doing things. It starts Thursday, when former Disney exec Dennis Snow comes to Beaver Creek, courtesy of the Vail Valley Partnership.Later this year, the Vail Chamber & Business Association will host Disney itself in the form of Disney University, in which people from the House of Mouse come to Vail to show us at least some of the secrets of the companys success.In between, expect a few people to decry the Disneyfication of Vail in our letters section in print or via comments on anti-Disney crowd has been active for some time. In the time Ive been in the valley, virtually every on-mountain or in-town move designed to appeal to a broader range of tourists has gotten at least a few grumpy, were turning into Disneyland comments. I understand. Skiing the reason most of us are here, after all is supposed to be a liberating day on a mountain, communing with nature and glorying in the rapture that is the Rocky Mountains in the winter.That idyllic vision doesnt include lift lines, yellowjackets, or lawyers suing eight-year-olds for on-mountain accidents.The problem with the idyll is that while most of us are here for the skiing, virtually all of us depend on the money of tourists to pay our own rent, utility bills and bar tabs. That means we need to be as inviting as possible to our guests so theyll spend money while theyre here and spend even more when they come back.Thats why the Disney way of doing business gets so much attention from other places that depend on people coming from long distances in order to spend money. My daughter a few years ago went to Disneyland for a few days with her mother, grandmother and aunt but not, thank God, her father. When she came home, she was glad to see me, a little, but would start sobbing for no apparent reason for the first couple of days she was back.I was at the best place in the world and now Im not, shed wail.Thats what Disney does.From toddlers to tweeners, from The Wiggles to Hannah Montana, Disney has the uncanny ability to suck in kids, their parents and big, honking chunks of disposable income.The company does it with its own cable network and theme parks, of course, but theres also a tightly-structured, heavily-researched company philosophy that makes sure Disneylands theme of The happiest place on earth includes friendly employees, people in Goofy suits who dont talk back, and a thoroughly scrubbed park every night.People poke fun at it, but it works. Every resort operator in the known universe looks at the Disney phenomenon and says, Man, Id like a piece of that action. Thats why we end up with places like the giant condo/hotel projects were seeing in Vail these days. Its why employers and employees have to attend customer service classes before getting merchant ski passes. And its why the upper-valley chambers of commerce jump at the chance for members to study virtually anything Disney. A mouse may not jibe with the image some people have of a freewheeling ski town (or the actual early history of this particular freewheeling ski town), but those who reject the Disney way do so at their peril.Vail Daily Business Editor Scott N. Miller writes about Valley Business every Saturday. Hes also managed to dodge ever seeing a full episode of Hannah Montana. Contact him at

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