Guest Opinion: Vail Resorts strategy – take the money and run

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Well, I finally made it to PCMR’s Canyons page recently after hearing outrageous stories of long lines in confined terrain. It’s true, there’s a business cluster up there. With all the snow we’ve had, much of the mountain is still closed, and there is very little evidence of efforts to make snow, groom trails, or open existing slopes. Obviously, Vail Resorts has put profits before people and their products with impunity. They do not care. They’ve sold 2 million discount Epic Passes and have a billion dollars in the bank. Now they cut at our expense. It’s the stockholders and stockholders against the stakeholders and skiers. Guess who wins.

They say it’s COVID, which shouldn’t come as a big surprise to them after two years. They say it’s a workers’ problem, but it’s more of a wages problem. They pay a minimum starting wage of $15 an hour for workers who commute for hours in the dark from Heber, Kamas or Salt Lake through inclement weather and terrible traffic. Surprise, no one wants to work a crappy job for a subliminal wage anymore, at either end of the economic scale. Blame the unions, COVID or Biden, but that’s the way of the world now as over 20 million Americans have quit their jobs since this summer. It would cost Vail Resorts 1-3% of their operating budget to offer all employees $20 an hour, and they’d fill all those vacancies in no time, but corporate greed triumphs over generosity, shareholders triumph over shareholders.

It’s been 10 years since former PCMR owner Powdr forgot to renew his sweet land lease with UPMC, followed by the hostile takeover by Vail Resorts and the death of good ski resorts in North America. We made our fist deal with the devil for their cheap seasonal ski passes and found that everyone in town has one, not to mention everyone in Salt Lake City, Colorado, LA, New York, Chicago, Japan and Europe. We don’t blame Blaise Carrig, Chip Carey, Bill Rock, or Mike Goar, who are all good guys and know how to run a ski resort, but they got their marching orders from the Vail Resorts long management table. They don’t want to talk to us about backcountry gates, avalanche fences, parking lots, or traffic. Vail Resorts’ gifts to our community are threatened major development densities, crowded hillsides and roads, and a je ne sais quoi attitude toward our local thoughts and opinions.



We don’t want our money back, we want our mountains back. We want our town name, as well as its reputation for low-key powder skiing. Skiing has now become prosaic and pedantic instead of being world class as they advertise. Weekends and holidays are taboo and powder days are now a crowded joke. There isn’t good public access to the local backcountry or our public areas, and the entire ski product has deteriorated to the point where it feels like baiting or a breach of contract and public trust.

Is this the beginning of the end of this house of cards? Is the quality of the product getting so bad that people refuse to renew their passports or visit Vail resorts? Will the working conditions become so miserable that no one works there anymore? Would they try increasing the pass price and selling less to improve the product? I doubt it. We are all expected to accept current conditions as the new norm, which they attribute to COVID, climate change or the economy. They’ll take the money and run away, and we’ll be left with the bag again.



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