Vail has entered New England.
And like all their previous moves, there were multiple rounds of responses the industry was waiting for.
It’s on that last point I’d like to dwell for a minute.
Because usually there’s concern, there’s frustration, there’s a long list of other not so positive reactions by folks in the area to the news of the big bad wold coming to town.
But Stowe has been different. Very different. If there was one sentiment that was present in nearly every local resort’s response, it wasn’t concern, it was optimism. In some cases, even a tinge of excitement.
Take, for example, these two quotes from the Burlington Free Press coverage of the news. The first from Ski Vermont’s Parker Riehle:
“It’s a win-win for Vail and Stowe Mountain Resort. The incredible marketing firepower and awareness Vail will bring to Stowe and the Vermont ski industry … will take them to the next level and assure the future sustainability of that great ski area.”
And the second from Sugarbush’s Win Smith:
“A company like Vail buying into the East is very positive for Vermont.”
An email campaign I received from Sugarbush the day after the news supported this bright outlook with specifics in terms of access and parking and real estate.
And it makes sense, right?
Vail is really, really good at getting people to visit their resorts. And not just people, but new people. People from out of town. People like one of their 650,000+ Epic Pass skiers.
Vail’s model also relies heavily on making sure that when skiers explore multiple resorts in an area they do so at their mountains. But Vail doesn’t own other mountains like they do in Tahoe and Colorado and Utah, so these extra skiers will inevitably end up at non-Vail resorts.
And Stowe’s access is a point of concern for everyone. A narrow highway to the mountain, very limited parking, etc. will all give resorts like Sugarbush a leg up when these skiers do fan out.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this.
We all know Vail can be a tough neighbor partly because they run such a savvy business. But I love the way Vermont saw past the bias some in our industry often feel towards Vail and dispensed with the grumblings we’ve seen in the past. Because, yeah, this will be competition, yeah, Stowe will take a few of their past passholders and guests, yeah, nobody has pockets as deep as theirs.
But it’s also incredible validation for the skiing in their region and a massive opportunity that, if played right, could be huge for Vermont’s ski industry as a whole.
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