Vail Valley Voices: It’s all about attitude
Vail, CO Colorado
Vail has gone from No. 1 to No. 3 in the annual Ski magazine rating, with Whistler-Blackcomb taking the top spot.
How can this be? We have the best mountain, incredible mountain facilities, top-notch grooming and snow making, world-renowned ski school, consistent weather, snow you can count on, great restaurants, outstanding retail and ski shops, improved lodging and access via two airports.
But we are told our shortfall is “attitude.”
What is that? Let’s start by saying it is being jaded, aloof, preoccupied with other things, inattention to detail or your own interpretation. But we all know it when we see it.
So now Vail Resorts and the town of Vail are undertaking an extensive survey to find out what is going on, and as a follow-up, coming up with ideas for improvement. Good idea.
But the watchword for any new ideas should have a common goal measurement. Consider whether it will cause our guests to say, “Hey, I’m not invisible, they care about me, they are friendly, they even have a sense of humor.” You don’t have to wait for survey results to recognize some pretty obvious areas how things could be done better now, soon or further out in the future:
• Arrival experience: Whether for the day or staying over, consider coming by road into Vail, an overwhelming place on a crowded day. How about flaggers stationed all along, more programmable signs, “you are here” roadside pictorials, understandable guidance to overflow parking with helpful folks available, frontage road temporary hoods over “No Parking” signs saying “OK to Park Today” (overflow parking is allowed, but the signs still say “No Parking”), mini buses circulating around to pick up guests going to our main portals. How about helpers for folks coming into the two new skier drop-off locations high up on parking structures. It’s not just 40 extra feet to walk, as some would say, but the 40-odd, sometimes difficult stair steps with ski gear.
• Leverage mountain services: Lift operators have an all-important job for safety and guest assistance. But a creative program could get them more into guest-friendly interaction. Some do it great now, but some could do better. And the ski-snowboard school are masters at guest service for their own students. But how about “standard operating procedure” to always talk to non-class riders on chair lifts – some do and some don’t. Also, if instructors always were at the front of their classes to merge their students in, the instructors would have a chance to chat up folks in the main line before asking them if it would be OK to merge in. And how about instructors who are not with students, eating with the public vs. all huddled together? And there are opportunities with on-mountain food services. Consider the notion of having roaming hosts similar to such a service historically provided at Beaver Creek’s Spruce Saddle restaurant.
• Restaurants, retail and lodging: There are programs helping businesses keep up a high-energy, guest-oriented service. But we can do better, and the simple statement, “Thanks for your business,” coupled with a smile, goes a long way.
• Municipal government visible service providers: Bus drivers have the most public interaction and do a great job, but there’s always room for doing better with guest interaction.
• We locals: We need to do our part. We can introduce ourselves as locals with our visitors on the chair lifts and sincerely say, “Thanks for coming to Vail.” And we can help the lift operators make them sense their importance and their job fulfilling by chatting them up. The same goes for conversations with bus drivers to help their day be more satisfying. And the hardest of all, if an obvious visitor, not-too-good skier-rider, clearly moving beyond their ability level almost runs into you, resist the temptation to tell them what you really think. But do tell them you feel uneasy and perhaps they could slow down and give you a little more space. All these little interactions are catching for others to pick up on and follow.
• Future ideas: Take advantage of the state’s offer to turn over control of the frontage roads to the town (along with the pot of money to maintain them). Surely there will be more opportunity to do sensible things. For example, adding a sidewalk opposite where overflow parking is allowed on the south frontage road, perhaps using eminent domain to gain the extra feet required to do this. The proposed Ever Vail new portal and third commercial zone could make Vail even more overwhelming to our visitors, but if done creatively, could make things better, clearly a challenge.
• Process and themes: Let’s bring in folks from (perish the thought) Disney Land/World to help guide us to using the term “attitude” in a positive way. And our terrific red vest volunteer hosts can provide valuable ideas, as well. If a common marketing theme is adopted (such as Avis’ “We Try Harder”), it might complement or encompass Vail’s “All The Love” program.
So let’s get cracking to turn around any shortfalls to our re-establishing Vail as No. 1. And let’s make attitude our forte!
Paul Rondeau is a longtime Vail resident.