Vail Daily column: Time to gear up for winter |

Vail Daily column: Time to gear up for winter

I don’t know about you, but once mid-September hits my mind starts to wander and I tend to ease my foot off the work accelerator to enjoy some much needed and valued quiet time at work to rejuvenate, get organized and shift my focus to winter. I don’t know why I am always surprised at how quickly that time between seasons flies by and how soon winter is upon us. To be more specific, winter business programming, Guide to Vail production, annual meeting preparation and the Merchant Pass Program. We certainly feel very popular here at the VCBA once our member businesses natural instincts kick in at the first dusting of snow and business owners and employees alike start thinking powder turns and, more importantly, “When can I get my pass?”

Merchant Pass Season

Well, we are ready for you! Merchant pass season is upon us and we have changed up the program this year, we think for the better. We have some simple qualifying programs to make your business eligible for a merchant pass as well as some “freebie” customer service training options for your employees so we can better support you and your business succeed this winter. The Merchant Pass Program is an integral tool for local Vail businesses each ski season. Vail Resorts graciously offers this program through the Vail Chamber & Business Association and Vail Valley Partnership every winter. Many local businesses would be unable to attract and retain quality employees without the Merchant Pass Program. Unlike an Epic Pass which is owned by the individual, a merchant pass is owned by the business to be given to their employees. Being able to own ski passes through the business, the one-time transferability, and the flexibility to purchase merchant passes throughout the ski season at an more affordable rate, $769 this season, are key factors that local businesses value and appreciate.

Four Qualifying Programs

The VCBA is offering four qualifying programs this year in order to purchase merchant passes. They are:

1. Mystery Shop Program enrollment: This program allows a business to receive real time critical feedback about the quality of their customer service throughout the winter season. Packages offer anywhere between 5 to 25 shopper visits throughout November – March.

2. VCBA annual meeting, Nov. 17: The meeting will include VCBA information and updates, Vail Resorts and Vail Mountain presentations from Chris Jarnot and Jim Kellen and town of Vail presentation from Stan Zemler. This meeting is open to the public, so join us regardless of your merchant pass needs.

3. Vail Welcome Center Community Host Customer Service Meeting, Dec. 3: This meeting will provide useful information for managers and frontline employees on good customer service and local Vail knowledge. Emphasis will be on the all-encompassing Vail guest service experience.

4. Employee Town Tours: Join us for a 1.5 to two-hour walking tour through Vail Village and Lionshead Village with key stops, such as welcome centers, pass offices and presentations from Vail Mountain department heads. This is a great way for your new and returning employees to familiarize themselves with Vail and bolster their local knowledge so they can better serve our winter guests.

All of the above programs are available to VCBA members regardless of their need for a merchant pass. Options two through four are complimentary for VCBA members and are being offered in order to help local business owners and managers prepare their staff for the upcoming winter season. For information regarding any of the above programming, please visit us at

It is important to provide a seamless customer service experience for our winter guests and visitors. They don’t see the difference between the businesses on Vail Mountain or within the town — all they know is that they are visiting and enjoying Vail. We are all responsible for providing a top-notch, gracious experience. Let’s arm ourselves with the knowledge and skills so we can continue our successes through this winter season. For businesses throughout the valley, our friends at the Vail Valley Partnership are also offering options for merchant pass eligibility. If you are a VVP member, then make sure to reach out to Haley McNeill,, and she will guide you through their programs. The Vail Mountain pass offices open Friday and Beaver Creek Mountain pass offices open Saturday, so don’t push off your ski pass decision-making any longer!

Alison Wadey is the executive director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association.

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