Vail’s town, businesses, mountain working to collaborate on the ‘guest experience’
VAIL — When you’re on vacation, who’s providing your service doesn’t matter. You just want to have a good experience.
With that in mind, Vail Resorts, the town of Vail and the town’s business community have been working since last year to make sure guests are having a good time, no matter who’s taking care of them.
The town and Vail Resorts have a process in which various ideas are being discussed for mountain/town collaboration. At Tuesday’s presentation to the Vail Town Council, Vail Resorts’ Phil Metz and the town’s Mia Vlaar talked about similarities between the organizations, and how those similarities can be put to better use.
Metz noted that cooperation so far has included work on the revitalized Snow Days events and the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships. The town and resort company have also worked together on smaller events including the town’s “legacy” parades honoring the 10th Mountain Division and the Legacy Days events to be held over Presidents Day weekend.
Collaborating enhances the guest experience, Metz said, and burnishes the brands of both the town and the mountain.
Standing out from the pack
Council member Jenn Bruno is the co-owner of the Luca Bruno clothing stores in Vail. In an interview following the presentation to council, Bruno said working with the resort company is essential in a competitive resort environment.
“There are a lot of great mountains in Colorado and Utah and Canada,” Bruno said. “One way we can differentiate ourselves is to have a great customer experience.”
That experience is both great service and little things guests will appreciate long after they’ve gone home, Bruno said. Those little things can include stopping to take a picture of a family in town, helping people understand a trail map or walking someone to a place they’re trying to find.
“We have some incredible businesses and they do amazing jobs,” Bruno said. “If we get together, collaborate and share our stories of success,” that can make the overall guest experience even better.
A need for customer-service training
The challenge will be getting people to participate. In the days before Vail Resorts unveiled its first Epic Pass, a number of seasonal workers depended on the resort company’s merchant passes to get on the hill. That program required participants to attend customer-service seminars. With the rise of the Epic Pass, those seminars have fallen by the wayside.
But Vail Chamber & Business Association Director Alison Wadey said there’s still a demand for customer-service training.
Wadey said while town and resort company officials have been working on big ideas, the chamber has been conducting its own, smaller programs.
“We’ve had people showing up for events,” Wadey said, adding that sessions have included employee training, as well as longtime residents who have talked about why certain runs have their names, as well as information you aren’t likely to know unless you live here.
“We talk about little things that make Vail unique — where to get a good burger or where the restrooms are or when the gondola opens,” Wadey said. That’s the kind of information a lot of business owners don’t have time to share, Wadey added.
Those tidbits are things both new seasonal workers and guests want to know.
Wadey said the chamber has also revived its locals’ card program, but employees have to go through one of the programs to earn one. Businesses have been more generous with their card discounts than in the past, Wadey said. Those businesses want locals to come in, with the expectation they’ll see guests employees have referred to them.
Those programs have already had more than 400 participants, Wadey said. That’s an indication of how eager businesses are to participate.
Bruno said what the broader program hopes to find is an incentive for more than just a few people to participate. Ideas will come over time. The goal is to have a broad-based program in place by the start of the 2019-2020 ski season.
“This could be unique and groundbreaking,” Wadey said. “We’re Vail — we should be the first.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com or 970-748-2930.
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More base areas open means more space for guests to disperse upon, even if those base area openings don’t translate into more actual terrain openings.