Former Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz Addresses Overcrowding and Takes Responsibility for Staffing Shortages

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Rob Katz, vail resorts
Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz.

The Storm Skiing Journal and Podcast has been given a recording of former Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz’s acceptance speech at the NSAA awards dinner last month. Katz was receiving the Industry Impact Award for 2022.

Katz used his speech to address the narrative that resorts are overcrowded and there are too many many people on ski hills.

“I’ll use my final few minutes here to get on a soapbox. What troubles me is this anti-growth narrative that’s out there in this sport right now. And I think if you read that, there was no bigger story over this last year than that [Vail Resorts] is growing too much. The entire narrative for this year was there were too many people, too many people, too many people.”

– Rob Katz

He points out that the data shows that skier visitation numbers have increased just 1% in the last 15-years and that peak days are lower. Almost none of Vail’s resorts exceeded a peak day this year.

“But yet we know this year, like actually we didn’t have that many people. And I think the industry data aligns with this, right? We didn’t actually see peak days grow. In fact, they were lower. Most of our resorts, literally, almost none even came close to their historical peak days. And yet the narrative was “too many people.””

– Rob Katz

So if the data doesn’t support the narrative, what is going on? Staffing shortages, for one, definitely contributed to the feeling that resorts were busier, an issue that he takes responsibility for.

“We did have some staffing challenges this year, for sure. And I personally own those issues from this year. I’m the one who set up this season for our company.”

– Rob Katz

Katz also took exception to the critics claiming that resorts are so busy because the Epic Pass is too cheap. For years, he says, the sport has been blamed for being too expensive and elitist, and then Vail Resorts comes along, introduces the Epic Pass, and suddenly it’s too cheap.

“I’ve spent 30 years in this sport talking about how the sport was too expensive. Elitist. Nobody could come in, we were charging too much. Now it’s too cheap. I don’t know about you, but as a manager in this business, I kind of feel bewildered.”

– Rob Katz

Katz ended his speech by talking about getting more people of color involved in the sport and continuing to grow the industry to bring more people into the sport.

“…we have to drive growth, to increase conversion, to bring people into the sport. It is that growth that I think is actually the core of what makes this sport so fun. We should remember the founders of this industry were all about that. And we don’t wanna give that up. And yes, it is painful, just like personal growth, right? Growth is hard. People won’t like you, people. It’ll be painful for you. It’ll be painful to others. but we can’t let that stop us from figuring out how to make this sport more special. So I personally am incredibly optimistic about the industry right now. 20 years from now, when I’m looking back, I want to see a sport, but completely different faces of different colors of different backgrounds.”

– Rob Katz

Way more is in the whole speech. You can read the full transcription at Storm Skiing Journal and Podcast.

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12 thoughts on “Former Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz Addresses Overcrowding and Takes Responsibility for Staffing Shortages

  1. The Vax mandate harms employees, protects no one, and no one takes responsibility for adverse affects from reduced heart function to death. Yet Vail is shocked they can’t find staff willing to hire on to one department yet get yanked to another duty in spite of spending years and thousands of dollars on certifications. “Come work at Vail, if we don’t kill you with involuntary injections, we’ll work you at something you didn’t sign up for.”

  2. Vail is doing to skiing what clear channel did to radio, just sucking the soul out of it.

  3. Its the new norm for politicians and crooked CEOs. Repeat the lie loudly and often and expect people to believe it. Even when your own company has issued releases saying visits were up 12%, then up 3%, then up 15%, then down year over year. I believe NOTHING he or VAIL Resorts says anymore. I used to go to Whistler, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Vail every year for a week or two. Now it will be a cold day in hell before I risk my vacation on a corporation that doesn’t understand customer the importance of customer experience. Golf courses have a similar asset utilization problem, but they don’t have 12 groups of 4 playing on a hole at the same time. I’m just surprised that the shareholders, after losing 40% of the stock value in 18 months, believe its working.

  4. Vail feels like it is owned by a big corporation. Vail associates is trying to own the whole town of Vail and it feels that way. We need more individual owners who can provide personalized (not corporatized) service (even on the mountain.) Too many decisions are made with the goal of growth or increased profits for VA, instead of improved experience for the skiers and staff. Empower entrepreneurs to bring Vail back to its true culture.

  5. As a long time resident of Park City, UT and a 29 yr (p/t) employee of a local ski mountain….I can tell you Katz is on drugs if he thinks skier numbers have basically stayed static for years. He can reference any made up stats he wants, or talk about any false data he can come up with, but I can tell you the quality of life in Park City, as well as the quality of the ski product on the mt, has been significantly and irreparably diminished since Vail came to town. There’s a reason why it’s called an Epic failure. Ridiculous traffic jams, crowded trails, huge lift lines, no parking available, excessive growth. Stupid. Dumb. And…with the epic pass being so inexpensive…no one needs to go work at a resort any more for a ski pass, they can just buy one. Why work when you can just go ski? Great job Vail…you are causing your own employee shortage problem.

  6. At $200 a lift ticket, it is way too expensive for low socioeconomic class people to play. Gas, food, rentals also prevent most people to afford. If you want “color” then you better lower prices. Yet, that’ll increase people, the other complaint. Vail sucks to work for because of pay and the vax mandate thing employees. So it’s a losing proposition given the constraints they put on themselves.

    My idea: pay employees better, drop vax mandate, hire people, lower prices, increase skiers, make less money. Now everyone wins but shateholders….the only people WHO don’t matter and aren’t skiing!

  7. Vail Resorts places revenues and its commensurate stock price above all other priorities. Katz defends their business practices by stating they did not exceed historical highs.. But those historical highs were absolute anarchy. Any resort that sells tickets at the level that the parking fills at 7:30 am and the surrounding community puts the town in gridlock is ignoring any semblance of customer satisfaction but also creating a public safety hazard.

  8. What an idiot. Bring more people of color to skiing? Maybe blacks funny like to ski? Maybe whites don’t like to play basketball or football.
    These people are sick. Anyone is welcome to ski.

  9. I identified the reason that skiing has become unreasonably expensive back in 1967: Overinvestment per unit of capacity, coupled with “snowmaking”.

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