Carnes: Can rhetorical questions be answered?
Not a trick question.
And for the record, neither was last week’s Vail Daily headline: Has Vail Resorts trained guests not to eat at its restaurants?
The only difference is one must remove the word “guests” and replace it with “locals.”
If the pandemic taught our corporate overlords anything, it was they could temporarily help make up for fewer guests on the mountain by offering fewer — and much cheaper — choices at their on-mountain restaurants.
At the time it was a common-sense practical decision to help deal with the whole mask-up, stay-6-feet-away, let’s-not-infect-one-another protocols. Netting more on the cheaper food played a role against the net losses from fewer skiers and snowboarders.
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The problem for locals is it worked.
Apparently, it worked so well that once the guests returned in droves, the food offerings remained pretty much the same. As one social media post put it: “the EPIC burger — Extremely Pricey Inedible Crap.”
Let’s be real here, on-mountain food is not designed in any way for locals, who indeed have been trained very well over the years to eat elsewhere, thus leaving more room for more guests who could care less about the price. They’re on vacation and more than willing to pay for the convenience in spite of the quality, or obvious lack thereof.
Every spot, from Two Elk to the 10th to the Dawg Haus to Spruce Saddle is packed to the rafters most days (yes, the Dawg Haus doesn’t have rafters, but you know what I mean), so why not maximize profit?
In other words: Fewer locals equals More profits. Why offer better food at lower prices when most guests are more than happy to pay for it, no matter the cost?
I say all of the above with the popular “low confidence,” as I’m not privy to the inside dealings of management, but anyone with open eyes and a growling stomach at the top of chair 4 realizes Vail Resorts is a for-profit business first, and everything else is a distant second.
They gutted on-mountain F&B during and now after COVID as a way to cut costs knowing they already have a confined audience spending thousands for hotels, ski passes, lessons, equipment, etc. for the brief time they are here.
Do you blame them?
Well, yeah, most locals do, as rose-colored memories of European-styled wine and cheese charcuteries on the hill with fresh powder and cobalt-blue skies will always trump today’s realities.
Back in the 80s, I learned to take my lunch on the mountain in a backpack each day as a way to save money, not because the food they served was frozen crap like most of it is today.
But when having guests in town I’m more than happy to treat them to lunch at Two Elk simply because the setting (the ambience, if you will) is spectacular, plus it’s too much of a hassle to ski with a backpack anymore. I do, however, only have an $8 Gatorade and claim to not be hungry (keeping my so-called principles intact).
The bottom line about on-mountain food for locals is, in effect, actually helpful for the privately owned restaurants in town, which almost all are, as they reap the benefits from locals by providing higher quality food for less money, making the entire issue basically a win-win for all.
So the answer to the question is painfully obvious.
Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.