Some may find it ironic that the Italian city of Venice will soon start charging tourists an entrance fee (between 3 and 5 Euros beginning in 2023) to help mitigate crowds while the ski conglomerate Vail Resorts continues to sell pre-season reduced rate Epic Passes that many maintain have increased crowds especially on weekends. Last year (2021-22 season), Vail Resorts sold 2.1 million Epic Passes, a 76 percent increase in units sold for their North American properties, according to an article in Vermont Ski+Ride magazine.
Combine that surge with the administrative streamlining of Vail’s operation in Broomfield, CO (thus eliminating a number of local resort jobs) and you have a windfall of money in no time.
For many, the tendency is to resent Vail for overcrowding slopes despite the “affordable” season pass prices that frequent skiers and riders can take advantage of for a number of reasons. And, believe it or not, Vail Resorts, and particularly former CEO and now Executive Chairperson Rob Katz, have been quite generous as philanthropists for a variety of causes in mountain towns including education, health, justice and substance abuse. Katz and his wife Elana Amsterdam started a foundation to address these issues and donated more than $180 million over five years.
And, Katz donated 100 percent of his stock appreciation rights (SARS) to charitable causes via the foundation, earmarking $4.9 million for mental health care and racial justice. The all-time high Vail Resorts stock closing price was 372.51 on November 05, 2021. The stock traded at $223 on July 5, 2022.
Katz stepped down from his CEO position in 2021. Kristen Lynch, formerly the Chief Marketing Officer and a big brain behind the Epic Pass saga, is now CEO but, according to industry insider Chris Diamond, Katz will continue, in large part, to guide the ship. “The way I read it, he is going to be more involved than a typical chairman of the board. Basically the board hires and fires the CEO — that’s (Katz’s) job. He might set big strategy, but doesn’t get involved in the day-to-day operations, that’s why you pay the CEO”, said Diamond, who was the president of Colorado’s Steamboat for 17 years before retiring in 2015.
In the meantime, traffic congestion and long lift lines are likely to continue at many Vail properties. Stowe is a classic example. Lisa Lyn, editor and co-publisher of VT Ski+Ride, recalls her Waze informing her that it would take an hour and 14 minutes to make the 11 mile trip from her home to the resort. It was a Friday morning after a snowstorm.
Just goes to show you that the love/hate relationship with Vail Resorts is also likely to continue.