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VAIL'S LESSON ON HOW TO MAKE A MOUNTAIN GROW
Published October 9, 1998
Vail Resorts Chair Adam Aron "is fast turning [Vail] into a leisure-time conglomerate," according to Christopher Palmeri of FORBES. Since skiing is "no longer a growth business," Aron's plan is to "extract extra bucks out of the existing lift-ticket buyers." Skiers spent 54 million days on the slopes last year, which is unchanged from 10 years ago. Vail, the country's most-attended resort, saw skier visits drop 5% this past year, blaming weak snowfall and increased competition. Aron's aim is to "make the resorts more profitable by getting the skiers to leave more money behind" at Vail-owned hotels, condominiums, restaurants and retail stores. Over the past two years, the number of restaurants owned by Vail has increased from 60 to 85, hotels from one to seven, and retail stores from 40 to 70. Non-lift-ticket business now accounts for 58% of resort revenues, up from 49% two years ago. Average revenue per skier, from sales of things other than lift tickets, has increased from $55 to $74 per visit (FORBES, 10/19 issue). FEARFUL OF ADAM? Aron's strategy, however, "hasn't made him popular in Vail," where local businesses "are feeling the competition from Big Brother." Vail Mayor Robert Ford: "There's a lot of muscle on the mountain. People are nervous." Aron has boosted his marketing budget 15% to $21M and has invested $500,000 in a Web site (FORBES, 10/19).