Ryan Summerlin September 3, 2013
I write this column every week for a variety of reasons. None of which is the money. It can be rewarding, challenging, fun, demanding, demoralizing, energizing and stressful. But it is not lucrative. Which is why it’s not my real, "big girl" job.
Depending on the day, my real job, the one that pays the mortgage, can be all of those things too. But for the most part, I find it highly enjoyable. I have ample opportunity to be creative and explore new ideas and use, almost exclusively, the right side of my brain. Except on Tuesday mornings, when I am forced into a conference room for hours, surrounded by left-brainers.
They are analytical, logical, numbers-and-reasoning kind of people. And they love these meetings each Tuesday, because we spend hours and hours developing and adjusting our strategic plan for the future. We talk about five-year and 10-year and 20-year strategies. We analyze and predict numbers and write and re-write plans for a variety of unknown scenarios.
Until recently, I begrudgingly showed up at these meetings and sulked through them. "We don’t have a crystal ball!" I would occasionally shout when we got stuck on an issue. I could not wrap my right-brained head around the need for these meetings. "Everyone in this room will likely either be retired or dead by the time the 20-year projections came true, so who cares?" I told myself.
And then I saw a strategic plan from over a decade ago come to fruition, and a light bulb went off. Long before I ever started working for the hospital here, some left-brainers sat down and said, "Eventually, this community is going to need an ICU."
And they developed plans and projections and tweaked and re-tweaked them over the years. Probably on Tuesday mornings. That vision is now their legacy. Their meticulous, advanced planning is now a gift to the community, and its impact will be felt for all of the generations that call Park City home long after they’re gone.
I can only hope the left-brainers at Talisker and Vail have the same approach as they make decisions that will affect the future of Park City.
I’m not a lawyer specializing in land-lease disputes. I’ve read all the articles, but I’m not qualified to say who’s more right, or perhaps, less wrong. That’s for a judge to figure out.
But as someone who has called Park City home for a number of years, and intends to stay here for many more, I am qualified to be concerned about what any outcome means for the town’s future. Which is a topic that seems to be missing from all of the discussions. The emotional, instant-gratification, shoot-from-the-hip, right-brainers are controlling the conversation, and I really wish some left-brainer would ask: No matter what happens, what happens in five, ten or even 20 years?
For example, a group enthusiastically in Vail’s corner is the dude-brahs. (I call them this because every comment begins with "dude" followed by a "bro" or "brah.") They are convinced they’ll be riding two resorts for the price of one next season, and that’s what matters to them.
But I think that’s a little shortsighted, if not unrealistic. Yes, it seems likely if Vail prevails, they would connect PCMR and Canyons resorts, something many in this town have long wished for. But it’s difficult to imagine they’ll keep the Epic Pass close to the price it is now.
It doesn’t take an economist to know competition is always good for the consumer. If Vail owns 2/3 of the ski market here, what’s their incentive to keep passes affordable? Their only local competition would be Deer Valley, a resort that caters to an entirely different, skiing-only demographic. Deer Valley gets $1900 for a season pass. Who’s to say Vail wouldn’t follow suit? They have shareholders, a $25-million-a-year rent payment, and, most importantly, consumers here willing to pay that. Frankly, it seems like a good business decision. They’re only eliminating the dude-brahs. In exchange, they have fewer season passes to sell, but make up the difference by getting more per pass. So there are fewer locals on the mountain for the same profit, which is good for the bottom line because the real money comes from the tourists.
And those tourists are the lifeblood of our economy. To date, all three resorts have done a remarkable job working together to attract visitors, in part because they each offer a unique experience. "Three world-class resorts, one destination" just seems like a better tagline on a brochure than "two."
Variety is pretty marketable.
Maybe that won’t make a difference to the consumer, but shouldn’t we consider it might? Especially when there are four resorts in the nearby Cottonwoods and Vail, who has resorts in a number of states, probably won’t be as invested in making sure the tourist skier comes to Park City. Their goal, as it should be, is making sure the tourist skier choses a Vail property.
I’m not on either side. PCMR is a great steward of our community, and while I can’t say the same of Vail, it’s only because they haven’t yet had the chance. Certainly, with the recent announcement Deer Valley will give their season pass holders day tickets to three other resorts, presumably to compete with Vail’s Epic Pass, it’s fair to say their arrival has already benefitted area skiers. Maybe they will come in and keep prices affordable and work hard to get tourists here and contribute greatly to our community.
I just hope someone’s thinking strategically about what happens to Park City if they don’t.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.