Vail’s 50th will be ‘meaningful’ |

Vail’s 50th will be ‘meaningful’

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – The Vail Town Council could approve $500,000 in its budget Tuesday for Vail’s 50th anniversary celebrations, but the next council will be in charge of whether that much money is actually spent.

The town contribution is just a portion of the 50th anniversary budget, which as of now stands at about $3.7 million.

The reason the scope of the celebrations is so grand is because Vail doesn’t want to take its 50th anniversary lightly, Vail Mountain Marketing Director Adam Sutner said. The 50th anniversary is something that should help the Vail brand and carry momentum into other marketing initiatives such as the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships, he said.

“It’s a unique opportunity,” Sutner said. “Vail has an interesting story. … Our history and past is substantive and meaningful.”

Vail’s founders, who trained with 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale and returned to the area after World War II and later started the Vail ski area, give Vail a special story, Sutner said. That story is what helped form what Sutner calls “the spirit of Vail.”

The 50th anniversary celebrations, which will kick off Dec. 15, 2012 – exactly 50 years after the Vail ski area opened – would last throughout the 2012-13 ski season, according to the current plans put together by an organizing committee that consists of town of Vail officials, Vail Resorts officials and other community members. The reason for such a long party is because Sutner said everyone who comes to Vail during the 50th anniversary season should be able to share in the celebrations.

The strategy is to kick off the anniversary season in December, which will raise awareness, similar to launching a new product, Sutner said. Then the idea is to sustain that awareness throughout the season with less expensive tools such as signs and a website.

“It’s a difficult trick and it does cost money,” Sutner said of the seven-month-long celebration.

There will be three main spikes of activity throughout the seven months in December, April and later in July.

While the conceptual plan is fairly detailed, the next stage of the planning process will determine the specifics. The budget level has to be determined before that can happen, Sutner said.

The $3.7 million preliminary budget, some of which is not a sure thing because it relies on variables like sponsorships and revenues from tickets and other merchandise, isn’t a budget Sutner predicts would ever go up.

“We would not spend beyond what that ($3.7 million) budget looked like,” he said. “That’s a full scale expression of what we want to do.”

The town’s level of investment

The Vail Town Council wasn’t totally convinced at its last meeting that it should contribute $500,000, although members seemed open to the idea as long as they get more details about the project.

Councilwoman Margaret Rogers, who was hard on James Deighan of Highline Sports and Entertainment, the event producer, at the last meeting, said conservative fiscal management is how the town has gotten through the economic downturn so well. She also said the town makes well established organizations and events such as Bravo and the Colorado Ski Museum jump through hoops for their annual town contributions.

“We demand to know what’s our return on investment,” Rogers said. “I am more than happy to support a well organized and well run anniversary party, but it’s going to have to make financial sense.”

Mayor Dick Cleveland said it’s almost too early to approve a contribution because there isn’t enough detail yet on what the money will be spent on. He also recognizes that it’s a Catch-22, because the organizers need a budget first before they can flesh out the details.

“It seems high to me because I guess I don’t understand completely what we’re doing,” Cleveland said. “I’m comfortable putting it in the budget as a placeholder, and then identifying more particularly, when it comes to distributing funds, what we’re getting.”

Vail Homeowners Association Executive Director Jim Lamont said in these times of concern about government spending, the council should be taking a hard look at what the costs for the anniversary entail.

“The higher the cost, the greater the demand for scrutiny and return on investment justification,” he said.

Sutner said the $3.7 million is a bold representation of what could be spent on the anniversary, but there could also be a more modest version.

“The level of investment overall is about what is required to pull off a major magnitude 50th celebration,” Sutner said. “If we were to spend significantly less, we would have to significantly reduce the scope.”

The Breckenridge ski resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, which is a much “softer scope,” Sutner said. Part of it is because the town of Breckenridge is much older, so the anniversary is not shared.

But Vail, a ski industry powerhouse whose town and ski resort were founded side by side, needs a larger scope because Vail has a larger story to tell, Sutner said. The scope of the anniversary will also continue to deliver on the powerful brand that is Vail.

“Our success here has been predicated on not only setting strong expectations for guests, but delivering once they get here,” Sutner said.

He also said the organizing committee is sensitive to the economy and to the fact that the town of Vail is being asked to contribute taxpayer dollars.

“Whatever the spend level, we will do a meaningful celebration,” he said.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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