What will the next 50 bring?
Kudos to the town of Vail as it celebrated its 50th anniversary Aug. 23. At its beginning, community leaders realized that Vail Mountain was a potential jewel of a ski area but that it needed the supporting infrastructure of a town at its base to ensure success. Starting literally from scratch, they had the vision and courage to think big and develop plans to manage growth and build what is today the town of Vail.
For much of the past 50 years, the town has been growing to the point that it is now fully built-out. The success of the founders’ vision is evident throughout the town. It is a magical experience for both visitors and residents, and today’s leaders are rightfully proud of what has been achieved.
While Vail has evolved into a first class international resort, there are some cracks in its veneer. No longer is Vail at the top of consumer ratings, and its status has been in decline for several years, raising the question of whether there needs to be a qualitative rebalancing.
And, while the mass marketing approach of recent years has produced economic benefits, there are increasing questions over the wisdom of pursuing larger and larger crowds. Added to these concerns is the fact that over the past 50 years Vail has been largely a company town, becoming even more so in recent years as Vail Resorts has moved into retail, rental and transportation businesses. Now, new developments are calling into question whether that will be a sustainable course for the next 50 years.
If it was not already apparent with Vail Resorts’ acquisition of Park City and the link-up to The Canyons ski resort, then the recent announcement of the company’s acquisition of the Whistler ski resort makes it clear that Vail Resorts is now the premier ski resort company in the world. This is good news for stockholders and Epic Pass skiers, but what does it mean for the town of Vail? Will Vail continue to be the crown jewel of Vail Resorts? Will Vail Mountain continue to be a primary focus of the company’s investment? Will the company even be called Vail Resorts in the future?
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These questions, and more, now swirl as Vail ponders its next 50 years. For its part, Vail Resorts acknowledges that there needs to be better cooperation with the town of Vail and says that it wants to work with the town to solve two of the community’s most pressing problems: parking and housing.
But, as Mayor Dave Chapin noted,“talk is cheap,” and it is now time for action. Parking and housing are only two of Vail’s problems. What will become of Ever Vail? As noted recently by a member of the Vail Town Council, at one time Vail Resorts “engaged in gratuitous acts of corporate responsibility.” Will that continue, and will the town of Vail continue to be a beneficiary of the company’s business plans?
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.