Vail looks to future | VailDaily.com

Vail looks to future

The following is an excerpt from a report by the Vail Homeowners Association board of directors. For more information, go to http://www.vail homeowners.com.

Vail Resorts claims that it is taking steps to improve on-mountain safety, but there is no data available on the number of on-mountain collisions or injuries, and therefore, no way to measure the effectiveness of its commitment or efforts; nor is there any way for the skiing public to compare Vail's safety record with those of other areas. Off the record insiders concede that Vail Resorts knows the most dangerous areas on the mountain, but even that information is not made public. That is because ski resorts are not required to release collision/injury information, and Vail Resorts, therefore, holds its records as one of its most closely guarded secrets.

Compounding the problem, in 1982 the ski industry flexed its political muscle to pass the Colorado Ski and Safety Act, which effectively shields ski resorts from responsibility. Between iron-clad legal protections and carefully crafted releases of liability, ski resorts enjoy almost total immunity from lawsuits, and there is no incentive to aggressively promote on-mountain safety. In the absence of any empirical information, antidotal evidence indicates that collisions and injuries are on the rise as tickets sales and skier days continue to increase. It would seem that mountain safety would have strong marketing appeal, but so far, that does not appear to be something that interests Vail Resorts.

Vail needs to become sustainable. Sustainability is about balance, conservation and long-term vision. A sustainable community is one that can be maintained long-term. For example, a community that focuses its efforts in only one direction will not long survive. Think Fort Lauderdale in the heyday of its Spring Break infatuation. Had it not reassessed where it was heading, it would not be the successful community it is today.

The good news for Vail is that several initiatives are currently underway to inform and advocate that Vail needs to adopt a sustainability focus. In the context of Vail's current problems, for Vail to be sustainable, it needs adequate parking and workforce housing; public safety needs to be improved; Gore Creek and other environmental assets need to be protected. From a tourism perspective, there needs to be balance between high-impact heads-in-beds numbers, and the impact of those numbers on the community's natural and cultural assets.

A sustainability focus would examine what is good about the community and assign value to adopting practices to maintaining those features. In terms of Vail, that might be its natural environment, outdoor living, skier enjoyment and cultural treasures. Once identified, those factors should drive government decisions and investments so that those values are maintained and not overwhelmed by change or congestion.

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The Vail Homeowners Association board is Gail Ellis, president; Judith Berkowitz, secretary; Rob Ford, treasurer; and directors Jamie Duke, John Gorsuch, John Lohre, Andres Nevares, Trygve Myhren, Larry Stewart and Doug Tansill.