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All hands on deck: Vail officially takes over

Transition under way from family owned to corporate 

By Mark Reaman

Since the official completion of the sale of Crested Butte Mountain Resort to Vail Resorts on September 27, the ski area has seen a flurry of activity. Vail Resorts personnel have been on-site cranking up the transition through the human resources and IT departments and dealing with a lot of paperwork. New systems are being installed and employees are being transitioned to come under the Vail umbrella.

“It is a relief that the deal finally closed,” said Vail Resorts executive vice president of the Mountain Division, Chris Jarnot, the day after the closing. “It was frustrating that it dragged on as long as it did since there is so much to do between now and opening day—which is only 53 days from now, but who’s counting?”

Given that short time frame before the lifts start spinning, Jarnot said no major resort upgrade would take place before the ski season begins.

A new general manager, Tim Baker, has been selected to fill the shoes of former Crested Butte Mountain Resort vice president and general manager Michael Kraatz, who will now work for the Mueller family real estate holdings. Baker had been working at Beaver Creek and has been with Vail Resorts since 2007. The CBMR marketing office was immediately shaken up as vice president of marketing and sales Scott Clarkson was let go.

Jarnot said Vail’s sales, marketing and public relations structure “is very different from what an independent resort would be, so changes to that structure were implemented and Scott is leaving as well. That is all that we have announced so far in terms of personnel as we have just started to understand the roles and responsibilities of various positions. We expect very few other changes but there could be some. We just don’t know yet. We are focused on doing that analysis quickly to eliminate uncertainty for everyone. We told people we would be settled by the end of October but again, we expect very few additional changes.”

Former CBMR vice president Erica Mueller is being retained as a consultant for the company. She will act as a community liaison to help the new owners understand how best to work with the local community.

“For our family it is nice that period of transition is finally over. It was good to get the deal across the finish line,” Mueller said. “But overall it is bittersweet. We poured our hearts and souls into the business and have been in Crested Butte more than 14 years. We are excited about the future of all three resorts [Crested Butte, Okemo, Sunapee] and excited to see the next steps with Vail Resorts.

“I will be acting as a consultant with the focus on community relations,” Mueller continued. “It is a lot of what I have been doing. As a good community partner, they want to continue with good, collaborative relationships. I am still passionate about the resort and it is a good chance for me to learn from them.”

As for the hundreds of other people employed by CBMR, Jarnot said basically every employee is being hired into Vail Resorts. “It is like starting a new job with a new company,” he said. “There is some paperwork to do but generally, if you had a job with health insurance, for example, you will continue to have that.”

Other details like company benefit details are being worked out. Jarnot did note that employee passes would now be good at 18 other resorts that come under the Vail Resorts flag. The winter seasonal employees will have to go through the new paperwork process when they report for duty. There will be new employee orientations for everyone and that is ongoing for those working currently.

Some changes people might or might not notice will be things like integrating CBMR ticketing, point-of-systems sales and computer networks with Vail Resorts. “On top of all the normal things a resort does to get ready for opening we will be scrambling to do some of that turnover,” Jarnot explained. “We are comfortable it will all get done even in this compressed timeline. We have the full court press on with people from corporate and from other resorts coming in to help with the transition.”

While there is not time to implement a major mountain upgrade before the start of the 2018-19 season, CBMR will have some changes such as the ability to scan tickets through an RFID (radio frequency identification) scanner. Such a scanner will allow people to, for example, keep a pass or ticket in their pocket while a scanner picks up the chip and registers it for the day.

“We will learn this winter what the needs and opportunities are for the resort,” said Jarnot.

In that same vein, Jarnot said the local Vail Resorts team would continue working with the non-profits and programs associated with CBMR (including the Choice Pass) that were set up for the coming season. He said that too would be another place to learn about relationships over the next year and see where the company energy should be focused. “That is an area we like to focus on in the communities we are a part of,” he said.

As for passes, Jarnot said those who purchased CBMR season ski passes will be able to upgrade to an Epic or Epic Local pass. Details of that are still being considered and you can go online (https://www.epicpass.com/info/cb-ok-ms-faqs.aspx) to see the current details.

“The bottom line is that we are all excited to be here,” summarized Jarnot. “Those who have come in to help and have never been to Crested Butte are blown away by the place. We are all excited about the opportunities and now we just want it to start snowing.”

Mueller said the family appreciated “everything the valley has provided us over the years, especially a great team of employees and the collaborative opportunities we have had with the community.”

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