Vail’s number 3? How can this be?
Wow, talk about getting cold water splashed on our faces! Vail is number three. The Ski Magazine survey that hit the stands this week is shouting we are not as good as we used to be. Number three? How could this be? The town and the business community may not have control over certain aspects of the survey – snow, grooming, terrain/variety, terrain/challenge, terrain parks, lifts, weather, on-mountain food, access and such – but they can have a dramatic impact on many other categories of this sometimes-flawed survey. In the lodging category Vail is ranked eighth, but in less than a year three new premiere lodging properties will open, which will improve that score. Fourth place in apres ski is not bad considering the tough competition from Whistler, Aspen and Heavenly. If you have been to these resorts you know the apres scene is as important to their success as is their ski product. To make our villages more vibrant and fun during apres ski we may need to loosen some of our strict regulations and turn up the fun meter. Off-hill activities ranked fifth – not bad, but can we do better? Family Programs at number eight? Ouch! There’s nothing more important to the family programs category than a great kids ski school, on-mountain kids attractions, family restaurants and off-hill activities. We have all of those things so it is our job to make sure the guest knows it, too. And when Solaris opens next July with all of its family-friendly amenities the perception of family programs and off-hill activities in Vail will improve dramatically. Overall satisfaction improvement will take a little time and creative planning on our part. It’s hard to satisfy guests when they are parking on the frontage road, when there is inadequate skier drop-off and so much of the town is still under construction. All these issues are on the table and are being addressed. The one category that the town and merchant community can most quickly affect is service. Vail sits seventh in the survey, behind Northstar, which has patterned itself after Beaver Creek, Whistler, Snowbasin, Beaver Creek, Sun Valley and Deer Valley. Vail may never achieve the top spot in this category because it doesn’t limit skier days, have family friendly skier drop-off or free overnight ski storage like Deer Valley, but it certainly can go toe to toe with any other resort on this list because service is about friendliness and the unspoken code, “we are here to make your vacation the best ever.” Deer Valley constantly reminds its guests and employees about the 10 key components that make up the “Deer Valley Difference.” This strategy is effective because “what gets measured gets done.” In the past, great service in Vail has been trained, measured and rewarded through the Vail Chamber & Business Association Premiere Impressions program, run in collaboration with Vail Resorts and the town of Vail. Unfortunately, Premiere Impressions may be in jeopardy just when we need it most, due to funding constraints. The loss of this program may cause Vail to fall farther in the rankings. With cooperation and backing by Vail Resorts and the town, perhaps this program can be resurrected. The drop in Vail’s ranking is just another reason for the town, business community and Vail Resorts to pull together and work toward a common goal; reclaiming number one. Let’s start today! Susie Tjossem is a member of the Vail Chamber & Business Association Board of Directors, a member of Vail’s Planning and Environmental Commission and is Executive Director of the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum.