Vail Daily column: There’s little reason to fear Vail Resorts

the Vail Daily Editorial Board

We’ve been reading a bit of the (Park City) Park Record’s coverage of Vail Resorts’ recent purchase of Park City Mountain Resort. As you’d expect, there’s a bit of unease on the part of residents and business owners there. We’re here to help ease some of that nervousness.

The Vail Valley has been through the queasiness that comes with changes in the structure of our bread and butter as a community a handful of times since Vail Associates became Vail Resorts in the 1990s.

The first time was the purchase itself, when a new group took the reins from former owner George Gillett. Gillett lived in Vail — and still does — and was the visible, and generally well-liked, face of the company. The new owners were Wall Street (New York) hotshots. What would they bring to, or take from, our ski resorts and communities as the company became a publicly traded corporation?

Vail Resorts and the communities were pretty comfortable with each other in the early 2000s, when the company decided to move its corporate headquarters from Avon to Broomfield. Again, we wondered what would happen when the higher-ups in the company couldn’t join us on powder-day mornings.

Here’s the short answer — it all works pretty well.

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A recent story in the Park City paper cited comments at a public meeting from people who don’t want their community to become Disneyfied — our word, not theirs.

What those people need to know is that Vail Resorts has taken pages from the Disney playbook to its great advantage. People in the tourism business study Disney as closely as they do for a simple reason: Nobody in the business is better at attracting tourists and encouraging them to part with their money.

Like Disney, Vail Resorts works tirelessly to attract people, the vast majority of whom go home happy that they spent what they did on their mountain vacations.

To be sure, people in Park City have legitimate concerns about whether Vail Resorts’ corporately owned or franchised retailers pose a threat to small businesses. And corporate goals aren’t always community goals.

But overall, the company that runs our ski areas is a good partner, willing to spend money when needed — or, sometimes, to spend money on things we didn’t think we needed until those things are fabulous successes.

There will always be people who long for the days when a small corporation, rather than a large one, ran the resorts. And, if our example is true in Utah, even those people will share in our common success.

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