Vail leaders waiting for snow
December 30, 2009
VAIL, Colo. – Vail is facing new economic realities, and if snow doesn’t start falling soon, the resort could could face even greater hardship.
Vail’s new economic reality was the theme of Tuesday night’s Vail Homeowner’s Association annual meeting, which filled the Vail Town Council chambers with longtime locals, second-home owners, Town Council members and Vail Resorts executives.
The meeting focused on the adjustments both the town and the ski company have made in the last year to respond to the economic slump. Both town and company officials talked up their respective preparedness for weathering such an economic storm, and said both were in good shape going forward.
The subject of snow, and the lack of it so far this winter, was hanging over the room, though.
“Through the next year, especially if it doesn’t snow soon, you’re going to see some changes in this town,” Mayor Dick Cleveland said.
Chris Jarnot, senior vice president of Vail Mountain operations, said he’s been doing his snow dances and anything else he can think of to try to get some snow to fall here. He said he’s been happy that mountain crews have gotten compliments from skiers and snowboarders for their ability to work with the little help Mother Nature has given them so far this season.
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“It’s been a challenging season to this point as everybody knows,” Jarnot said.
The town and the company both noted that each have already made plenty of changes internally, in budget cuts, but that changes are not yet visible to Vail’s residents or guests – yet.
While the town is comfortable with its 2010 budget, there 2011 budget will have more challenges, Town Manager Stan Zemler said.
“We see the need to make more reductions in general operational expenses,” he said. “We’re going to be proactive here.”
Jarnot said Vail Resorts as a company focused on not taking away from the guest experience even as it reduced employee wages and benefits and made other cuts. Customer service is an area where both the town and the company can agree – both have made it a major focus as the economy has shifted the way business operates here and around the world.
The alignment in their ideals is the first step toward becoming a globalized resort, said the meeting’s guest speaker, Jim Ellis, the husband of the newly elected president of the Vail Homeowner’s Association board, Dr. Gail Ellis.
Jim Ellis, dean of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, said everyone in Vail – the town, Vail Resorts, the community – have to come together as one voice if Vail’s reach ever truly goes global.
“We need to understand what we’re great at and we need to understand what we’re not so great at,” Ellis said. “We need to understand our core customers and how to get more of them.”
Ellis said he suspects Vail’s global reach is probably smaller than it is perceived to be.
“We have a great asset that’s not being maximized,” Jim Ellis said. “But it can be if everybody is thinking the same way.”