Vail Daily column: A little healthy competition never hurt anyone
As a child, I cherished the idea of being part of a true skiing community. After graduating Franklin and Marshall college in 1999, I packed all my belongings and traveled west from Pennsylvania. I knew nothing of the tangible issues facing an entry level “skiing professional”: housing shortages, strong competition, difficulty finding positions challenging enough for a self-assured college graduate and lower starting wages. Above all, I knew no one in the intermountain West. Luckily after a little research, I found that Colorado and specifically the Vail Resorts Inc. structure provided solutions for nearly all these woes.
For me, Vail Resorts offered the only well-known corporate brand and multi-resort portfolio, and therefore options. I assumed surely they had a need for a young passionate “skiing professional” whose hospitality and customer service background could serve them well. After reviewing my credentials, VRI’s Human Resources ushered me through a professional interview and vetting process that led to my first real job and a place to live that first year. The rest, as they say, is history.
But, why had I wanted to pursue Vail Resorts vs. countless other ski or resort companies in existence at the time? Because, Vail was simply the best option and remains so to this day. Even then I thought, where else can you own one pass that allows you to ski at so many premier resorts? As the ski company continued to evolve internally, created the Epic Pass, pursued inorganic growth to add season pass value, and more recently, expanded summer operations known as Epic Discovery, I could only laugh as friends and associates reacted negatively toward acquisitions and advancements. My response to this day, “We get to ski there for free, and I’ve always wanted to ski there. Road trip next season, care to join?”
Vail Resorts is not an evil empire because they’ve created industry changing pass products, innovative plans for essential feeder programs and resorts in less ski-centric areas, or spent countless dollars updating, expanding and providing world class services to mountain resorts worldwide. Instead, in my opinion, they are innovators of modern mountain sports, and often act as stewards for local communities who struggle to grow year-round business within mountain towns.
Continuing this tradition, the recent acquisition of Whistler Blackcomb adds new challenging terrain for Epic Pass holders, additional markets and skier visits for both resorts and business communities, valuable year-round operational intelligence important for Vail, and risk aversion for an industry dependent on snow as its backbone.
As a community we need to continue to work in collaboration with our global ski company bearing this town’s name. Perhaps a little healthy competition between all of Vail’s resorts, local communities, and employees is the future of skiing and snow sports. By working together to solve our shared industry problems, we can all win. I can’t begin to imagine where the next 17 years will take me skiing, but I sure hope it’s a resort on my Epic Pass.
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Ryan Kelsey is the director of sales and revenue for the Antlers at Vail, co-owner of Healing Hut TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and a member of the board of directors for the Vail Chamber & Business Association.