Guest editorial: Deer Valley’s brand won’t be diminished by new owner
The cover story “Deer Valley is Sold” (The Park Record, Aug. 23, 2017) had a subhead beginning, “Intrawest-linked firms. . .”. This infers that Intrawest is part of the central makeup of the prospective buyer. This is confusing and induces fear in a community that may never fully recover from Vail’s acquisition of Park City Mountain Resort.
Intrawest is most known for honing the mountain-village concept. Their name, in the wake of Vail’s arrival, evokes the image of more multi-storied developments and the final demise of Park City’s central core of historic shops and miners’ cabins. Their resort management ventures and recent dissolutions widen this unfavorable reputation.
It is unfortunate that this new resort management company has yet to announce a name. Most news agencies are struggling to accurately identify them. A press release dated July 31st states that the new joint venture was formed by affiliates of KSL Capital Partners and Henry Crown and Company, along with an investment from Mammoth Resort’s Chairman and CEO. The release announces the completion of the acquisition of Intrawest Resort Holdings and Mammoth Resorts. No Intrawest owner or executive is identified as having a significant role. The release affirms that the CEO has resigned and its stock will cease trading.
Possibly the most accurate, is being branded a ‘sister company’ to Aspen Skiing Company, SkiCo. The two have mutual ties to the Crown Family and SkiCo executives played significant roles. SkiCo’s David Perry has been named as their President and COO. There was a statement that Aspen Snowmass will set the benchmark for the associated resorts. Their vision is not to become another Vail or Intrawest. They have expressed an appreciation for the unique attributes of each individual resort community. SkiCo and KSL have a decent record of recognizing where and when to invest in the village.
This season will be my 5th season as a Ski Pro with the Ski and Snowboard Schools of Aspen Snowmass. My tenure in the ski industry began in the 90s working nine seasons at Deer Valley. I have worked at nine resorts in five western states as well as resorts in three foreign countries. Some have been family-owned and others part of a large conglomeration. Along my journey I worked for George Gillett’s Vail Associates and later for Vail Resorts. I had returned to Utah for five seasons at PCMR prior to its acquisition.
Of all resort employees, the role of ski instructor role puts you as close as you can to a guest perspective. We experience frontline employee interaction alongside the guest at ticketing, retail, rental and food outlets as well as lift and mountain operations. Often you hear guests’ uncensored opinions, both accolades and complaints. I believe that my early days at Deer Valley tainted both my resort expectations as well as my career path. They had set the bar for what a guest experience could be.
Many resort employees and managers have only worked in one or two resorts. Often, they don’t appreciate or recognize what makes a great resort company. They may miss the potential to learn and incorporate new ideas into an already great company. I see both Deer Valley and Aspen Snowmass as great resort companies. Both could be equally utilized for setting benchmarks for a truly amazing resort company to either work at as an internal guest or visit as an external guest. This is not going to be another Vail, everything feels different. The roots of Deer Valley go back to Aspen Snowmass through both the Stern Family and Stein Eriksen. I am excited to see what can grow out of this new venture.