Vail leaders mull vision for the town
December 9, 2009
VAIL, Colo. – Vail could possibly rise in its ranking among top ski towns if simple things like greeters could reach guests as soon as they arrive in town, some Vail Town Council members said Tuesday.
The new Vail Town Council met for a retreat led by Town Manager Stan Zemler Tuesday, and while members bounced around lots of ideas, a theme focusing on Vail’s customer service was a common thread.
Council members also talked a lot about getting Vail back into the “No. 1 spot,” referring to SKI magazine’s annual reader survey that ranks the best North American ski resorts. Vail, which is often ranked first or second, came in third this year.
The town’s greeter program, volunteers in red jackets who provide information to visitors, could be expanded for not much money, some members said.
“I really think we need to be leaders for what we expect for customer service,” Councilwoman Kim Newbury said.
Councilwoman Susie Tjossem, who has logged years of corporate experience in the ski industry, pointed out things like the “Deer Valley Difference” – a marketing campaign that the Deer Valley, Utah, ski resort prides itself on and truly does make a difference to its customer service image, Tjossem said.
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Deer Valley has held the No. 1 spot for a few years. Greeters there get close enough to open car doors for people and haul their skis to the chairlifts – staff will even wash car windshields while people are on the mountain, she said.
Council members couldn’t, however, come to a consensus on whether it even wanted to be like Deer Valley, at least not at Tuesday’s retreat. They agreed customer service needed to get better, from everything like the greeter program to parking to more information available throughout town, but didn’t seem to align on whether to keep traffic limited within town and on the mountain.
Tjossem said with all the development expansions in town, the mountain needs something in the range of 30,000 skiers per day to sustain the growth, not its current 19,000.
But too many people on the mountain at a time is one of the categories that has hurt Vail in recent SKI Magazine rankings, said Councilwoman Margaret Rogers.
“We’re better off making this a well-rounded community, not just a winter mecca,” Rogers said. “We need to increase people during the times we don’t have people here.”
Members bounced around the ideas of Vail’s ultimate vision for the future – meaning what will its postcard look like in 15 or 20 years – but decided to have a morning work session Jan. 19 that will focus specifically on the topic.
From keeping an Olympic bid on the minds of everyone – something Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger suggested – to preserving the character of downtown Vail’s core, council members plan to narrow it all down to a clear vision that will guide decisions prioritizing the town’s capital projects list and other projects.