Pay It Backward Gratitude

The response to our Pay It Backward Weekend (see previous post) has been overwhelming.  Out of the 36 organizations we invited, we now expect 33 to attend.  Even better, their gratitude has made us happier than ever, that we decided to quit talking about doing this and just pull the trigger! Two of the people I spoke with even told me that when they awarded the stay to a member of their organization, that person started to cry.  Of course that prompted some commentary among ourselves that if the reaction to a stay at the Antlers was tears … what exactly does that mean?

No, no, no … these were tears of joy … honest.

This letter we received today is a great example of why we’re so pleased to be able to do this.  We think we’re the lucky ones!

Thank You Letter: Pay It Backward Gratitude

letter from the Center for Mental Health

Stay tuned for pictures and follow-up from the reception on Saturday.

Rob

Pay It Backward Weekend

The term “Pay It Forward” has come to mean doing something nice for someone in hopes that they’ll do something nice for someone else … a wonderful act of blind faith.

Logically then, “Pay It Backward” must refer to that circumstance when someone has already been so nice that they simply deserve a little reward.

With that in mind, we at the Antlers decided it was time to host a Pay It Backward weekend. In line with our constant desire to be a good corporate citizen, we identified three dozen wonderful non-profits and invited each of them to designate a person of their choice to spend two free nights in Vail, May 15 – 17 … no strings attached. It might be their Executive Director or a hard working board member. It might be their Volunteer of the Year. It could even be a recipient of their services, who they just think deserves a break today. Whoever they want … it’s totally their choice. Naturally, significant others and family members are welcome also. We simply want to take the opportunity to thank them for doing what they do, helping to make this world a little better place.

 

Pay It Backward s

The following organizations were picked somewhat randomly. We tried to find a good mix of social, environmental, humanitarian, health, military, children and animal related causes. The Antlers has a previous relationship with some of them and others we’ve just always admired. Naturally, there are a million others who would be equally deserving, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. Who knows, maybe we can grow this event in the future to include others as well.

Alliance for Sustainable Colorado
American Heart Association
American Red Cross Mile High Chapter
Audubon Rockies
Bicycle Colorado
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado
Boys & Girls Clubs
Canine Companions for Independence
CAR Housing Opportunity Fund
Catholic Charities
The Center For Mental Health
Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation
Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Colorado Public Radio
Colorado Fourteener Initiative
Colorado Water Trust
Crossroads Safehouse
Denver Children’s Advocacy Center
Denver Dumb Friends League
Denver Indian Family Resource Center
Easter Seals
Food Bank of the Rockies
Habitat for Humanity of Colorado
The Home Front Cares
Hospice of Northern Colorado
IDE – International Development Enterprises
Joshua Station
Mile High United Way
Mi Casa Resource Center
MaxFund
Rocky Mountain Rescue Group
Ronald McDonald House
Salvation Army of Colorado Springs
Sense of Security
Wounded Warrior Project
Women’s Foundation of Colorado
9 Health Fair

In addition to the free nights, the Antlers will host a reception on Saturday evening the 16th at 5:30. Similar to our weekly guest receptions in the winter, Chef Barry Robinson is guaranteed to wow everyone with his gourmet appetizers and the Antlers will provide the wine and refreshments. Again, no strings attached … people can come to mingle and network with all the other humanitarians, or they will be totally excused if they’re just too busy enjoying Vail and our surrounding mountains.

As of today, thirty organizations have RSVP’d and their appreciation has already made the endeavor enormously gratifying. We can’t wait until the actual event!

As always, the Antlers takes pride in remembering that life is short and there’s a lot more to business than just making money.

Not Just Another Site Tour

Under the heading of “Life’s Little Pleasantries”, Magdalena gave a site tour to Aimee Heckel on Sunday. By the way, Aimee is a very entertaining writer (aimeeheckel.com).  In this case, she was reviewing some Vail properties for Fodor’s.  Magda reported that it was a great site tour and also relayed an interesting comment from Aimee.  When she asked about our neighboring properties, Magda naturally responded 100% positively, even noting some of the strengths of each.  Aimee said that when she asked the folks at Sonnenalp about the Sebastian (where she was headed next, before us) they too had nothing but good things to say.  On her way from the Sebastian to the Antlers, she got the same feedback from them, about us.

Her observation was that she had never experienced quite so much respect and camaraderie between different properties, when on a travel writing assignment like this one. Hearing that made me quite proud of our community. No surprise … just a reaffirmation really, but I guess it’s evidence that when we sometimes call this place Happy Valley, we’re not always being facetious.

We neglected to get a picture of Aimee and Magdalena, but here’s Magda showing unit #518 on a recent (but different) site tour. Notice Asst. Executive Housekeeper Gladys Villeda on the right … who else sends their housekeepers on site tours? We do because we’re proud of that department! And yes … that’s an international travel agent proudly wearing his new antlers.

Rob

Pink Hat Auction for Pink Vail

In support of Pink Vail, the Antlers commissioned two Pink Vail Hats to be handmade and auctioned off, with all proceeds going to the fight against cancer.  On a personal note, the hats were made by my wife Evelyn, who got into felting last year!  I’ll have to do another blog post dedicated to some of her other wonderful creations.  For now though, let’s auction these hats and raise some money for a good cause.

You need to buy one of these hats.  With only these two items, we’re not up for a complex auction system.  No eBay for us.  We’ll do this the old fashioned way (if you can call email “old fashioned”).  Just send me an email (rob@antlersvail.com) with your bid and I’ll take it from there.  You can also call me at 970-790-5200.  Leave me a message with your bid and I’ll get it posted.  The auction closes on Tuesday,  the 24th at 5:00 PM.

                          Current high bids are:

$35 $50 for the True Pink             $50 $75 for the Dusty Rose

Pink Vail hat 2015 b                   Pink Vail hat 2015 a

 

Pink Vail hat 2015 f

Thanks,

Rob

Bravo! Like a Local in Vail this Summer

We love Bravo! Vail, and always have. The Antlers at Vail has been hosting Bravo! musicians since the second year the festival in existence. But we’re not biased in saying that Bravo! Vail is a highlight of Vail summers. The only music festival in North America to host three world’s-best orchestras in the same season, the iconic series was named one of “10 Can’t Miss Classical Music Festivals” by NPR, which led with the line “If musical heaven is overdosing on orchestras, Bravo! Vail is the place to be.” This summer Vail visitors can join the fun, spreading out tasty picnic fixings and mingling with neighbors while enjoying internationally famous orchestral strains with a new “Bravo! Like a Local” package from Antlers at Vail hotel.  And not incidentally, the Antlers also plays home-away-from-home to Bravo! celebs, giving guests an extra insider’s take on the festivities.

The Antlers at Vail’s “Bravo! Like a Local” package offers general admission (lawn seating) tickets for two – or four for families with kids – and a gourmet picnic to enjoy on the lawn. Package rates are $289 per night (two-night minimum) for a one-bedroom condominium suite – or a comfortable one-bedroom with additional bunks, if the kids come along.

The 2015 Bravo! Vail season runs July 1 – Aug. 6, 2015, with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in residence with performances July 1 – 8, the Philadelphia Orchestra performing July 10 – 18, and the New York Philharmonic July 24 – 31, with performances held at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. Bravo! also includes a long-running Chamber Music Series, performed in more intimate settings. And for those making their Bravo! visit a family affair, the music series offers experiential events for children including “Instrument Petting Zoos” and Little Listeners at the Library events. For complete Bravo! Vail scheduling and information, visit bravovail.org.

Antlers Offers Vail Bourbon Sipping Package

Antlers at Vail hotel is partnering with Vail’s first craft distillery with a lodging package that includes a visit to 10th Mountain’s newly opened Vail tasting room for sampling and souvenirs.

Antlers at Vail hotel is partnering with Vail’s first craft distillery with a lodging package that includes a visit to 10th Mountain’s newly opened Vail tasting room for sampling and souvenirs.

We feel very fortunate to be able to call Vail home for so many reasons. There are so many things that make this place special — from the epic skiing and spectacular wildlife and mountain activities to its unique history and people. The Vail ski area was founded in 1962 and has close ties to the brave men of the 10th Mountain Division who trained in the area.

To celebrate both the local history and the opening of 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit’s new Vail tasting room – one of Colorado’s hottest new apres-ski options – Antlers at Vail hotel has partnered with the distillery to offer guests a sip-and-stay lodging and tasting package. Available through Dec. 21, 2014 {UPDATE: Due to popular demand now available April 5 through May 31, 2015}, the package includes two nights at the Antlers and a visit to the 10th Mountain tasting room for a chance to savor the spirits, locally crafted with Colorado-sourced Olathe corn, Palisade peaches and water from pure Rocky Mountain snowmelt.

10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit was founded by Vail restaurateur Ryan Thompson and Vail entrepreneur Christian Avignon, grandson of a 10th Mountain Division medic. “The patriotic men of the 10th brought diversity, courage, and hope to the Rocky Mountains when they arrived in the 1940s to train just a few miles south of what is now Vail,” the 10th Mountain Whiskey’s website states. The 10th Mountain Whiskey crew credits the military division with founding the mountain lifestyle enjoyed by so many today and is committed to paying homage to their rugged ideals – including by donating a portion of sales to the Wounded Warrior Project, Vail Veterans Program, and the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association.

“We love the 10th Mountain connection with Vail’s history,” says Antlers at Vail GM Rob LeVine. “At the same time we enjoy offering our guests an early opportunity to taste the wares of Vail’s first craft distillery. Whether they opt to come in fall and make the craft bourbon and whiskey experience the focus of the trip or come a little later in the year and combine it with early-season skiing, it’s fun to be part of all the buzz around Colorado’s growing craft spirits industry – and of 10th Mountain’s strong connections to the Vail community and commitment to a quality local product.”

The Antlers at Vail sip-and-stay 10th Mountain Whiskey package offers guests two nights for two people in a one-bedroom suite plus a visit for two to the 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company tasting room at 286 Bridge Street in Vail. The tasting includes a flight of five tastings, a souvenir rocks glass and a $5 certificate to spend toward merchandise for each person. Package rates are $392 for two people (double occupancy) through Nov. 20, and $454 from Nov. 21 – Dec. 21. Package rates are based on availability; tax not included. Some two-bedroom packages are also available; call for pricing.

10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company produces its spirits in its 7,000-square-foot distillery in Gypsum, Colo. Local ingredients, including grains from farms in central Colorado and the state’s familiar wild sage, were sourced to produce the craft distillery’s first offerings, a corn moonshine, a rye whiskey, a Bourbon, a potato vodka and a sage-infused, peach-vanilla cordial. “We want to hang our hat, so to speak, on our whiskey and bourbon lines so we’ll be producing a number of different expressions as our distillery matures,” says Thompson of the company’s future plans. For more information visit http://10thwhiskey.com.

New & Improved Condos, Logo & Website

It is an exciting time to be a part of the Antlers at Vail family. A little over a year ago our team embarked on an alignment process based on the book “Triple Crown Leadership” by leadership guru Robert Vanourek. As we progressed through the process and moved on from identifying and creating our purpose, values and vision to setting measurable goals it became clear that the most important thing that we could accomplish would be to close the gap between the different lodging quality ratings for our variety of condos. We created and embarked on a fairly aggressive Unit Quality Improvement plan that continues to be revised as we reach milestones on our path to becoming an overall platinum rated lodge, representing the quality that visitors from around the world expect from a Vail, Colorado hotel. As we have seen the impactful results of the plan, we also realized that it was time to represent the new and improved quality of the Antlers at Vail condos through a new visual brand, photography and website.

logo, Vail hotel, elk, mountains

Created by Denver-based Wigwam Creative, the new Antlers at Vail logo represents the new and improved quality of the hotel’s condominiums.

Drumroll, please! Nine months – and plenty of construction – after we launched our Unit Quality Improvement plan, more than half of our Vail condominiums have received the luxe upgrades – and we are also boasting a brand new logo and website to celebrate our new look.

Designed by Denver-based Wigwam Creative, Antlers at Vail’s new logo offers a clean, modern approach while incorporating the Colorado mountain resort town’s famously European cachet, as well as the Vail hotel’s popular elk antlers theme – on view in the iconic bronze statue of two clashing elk in the hotel’s courtyard, a favorite photo opp for guests from around the world.

Yesterday, October 12, 2014, snow fell on the elk bronze statue in the Antlers at Vail courtyard where guests from around the world have their photo taken.

Yesterday, October 12, 2014, snow fell on the elk bronze statue in the Antlers at Vail courtyard where guests from around the world have their photo taken.

The just-launched website emphasizes photography – including the newly upgraded units as photographed by Michael Rawlings and styled by Amy Lewis – and presents the old site’s familiar color palette in a new way. Created by Vail-based Nichols Interactive, the new website is a responsive site that automatically adjusts to devices used to access it, and puts the most valuable information at the user’s fingertips while highlighting the fun personality of the Antlers’ established blog and valuable feedback from travelers on TripAdvisor.

“Our logo and corporate identity was 40 years old, and as comfortable as we were with it – too comfortable, probably – as we began to see the amazing results of our Unit Quality Improvement plan moving us toward becoming an overall Platinum-rated property, we realized it was time for a new logo and visual brand to represent the new Antlers,” says Antlers GM Rob LeVine. “Both because of our name and our well-known courtyard sculpture, we felt it was important to keep the elk and antlers as part of our logo. Plus, we wanted to convey that although we look better, our values remain the same, emphasizing our ‘the answer is yes, now what is the question’ approach to customer service, our family feel and our strong role as a community partner.”

Unique to vacation destinations, Vail Valley Partnership manages a Lodging Quality Assurance program (LQA) that provides a standardized rating system for all units rented through the Vail Valley’s central reservation systems, with Platinum representing the highest level of room appointments. Antlers at Vail interior upgrades in recent months have included granite countertops, stainless appliances, new flooring, new lighting and entertainment systems, new fireplaces, furnishings and much more – with resulting upgrades to the Platinum LQA scores.

 

The Antlers Has Done It Again

The Antlers has just done what nobody else has done … again.  For someone who likes to think outside the circle (see?) it is insanely gratifying to work for a company that’s consistently willing to try new things, break ground and be on the cutting edge. Do leaders get some arrows in the back? Sure, but I’d much rather have a few darts in the derrière than just slog along in the middle of the pack.

Among all the lodging properties in Vail (and later the Vail Valley), here are just a few of the things on which the Antlers has led the way:
Not charging for local phone calls (that’s right … 1983-ish)
Accepting non-Saturday to Saturday bookings during the height of the ski season (even harder to remember that)
Building employee housing (1982)
Converting all wood-burning fireplaces to gas (1991)
Putting VCR’s in every condo (1987)
Getting a fax machine (1992-ish … people asked, “What will you do with it?” and we said, “We really don’t know.”)
Computerizing our operations (1980 … with an Apple II+)
Adopting a stretch of highway (1985)
Offering free snowshoe rentals to all of our winter guests (2012)
Starting the redevelopment of Lionshead (2001 … at $18M, that was the biggest of all)

Now comes another biggie … more subtle than some of the others, but with potentially huge impact.  For many years the Antlers owners have enjoyed a 64/36 rental spilt. Owners get 64% of the rental income from their condominium. For full service properties (daily maid service, etc.) that’s the best in Vail, by a pretty wide margin. The rental split at most of our competition ranges from 60/40 to 50/50.

Last month the Antlers owners agreed to change that split, but here’s the fun part … Consistent with our efforts to encourage the owners to upgrade their condos to Platinum status, the split will be a sliding scale. Those units rated 90 and above (Platinum) will maintain the old 64/36 split, but for every rating point below 90, the split changes by 1%. In other words, a unit rated 88 (high gold) will receive 62% of the rental revenue rather than 64%. Our lowest rated units with an LQA score of 83 (thankfully not many of those) will have a 57/43 rental split … right up until the time they make some improvements (many of which are now being hastily scheduled).

This is a pretty radical departure from our historical approach of only using carrots to motivate condo improvements. This has a decidedly greater “stick” element to it. Does that part bother me? Yep, a little. But there’s such justification for it and ultimately it really is fair (in my mind, at least).

Best of all, it’s totally cutting edge. Nobody else is doing it … YET. I’m willing to bet that others will follow. I can’t wait to see.

Rob

Revenue Management?

Twenty years ago, most of us in the hospitality business had never heard of a Revenue Manager.  Back in those days people made their reservations either by calling us, or having their travel agent call us.  It was pretty simple.  Establishing our pricing was a fairly straightforward exercise, taking into account supply and demand, which was relatively homogenous.

Fast forward to 2014 and you have the internet and a plethora of new ways to book a hotel room.  Our puzzle includes guests who:

  • Call direct
  • Book on-line direct
  • Have their travel agent use one of those two channels
  • Use a wholesaler (a travel agent for travel agents) who does the same, or maybe books through the Global Distribution System (GDS) run by the airlines (Apollo, Sabre, Worldspan, etc.)
  • Use one of two Central Reservation Systems in Vail (with or without a travel agent involved)
  • Use one of the online travel agencies (OTA’s) such as Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com or more than a dozen others

There is also the question of how all those people who are booking on-line, whether direct or through a third-party, arrived at that particular website.  The possibilities are literally endless.  Attempting to track the demand from hundreds of such different channels is a full time job, to say the least.  Each of those sources of business lends itself to complex analysis of pricing, discounting, restrictions, behavior, etc.

Ryan Kelsey c

With this ever-growing complicated puzzle of “inbound traffic” the Antlers has taken the plunge of hiring a full time Revenue Manager.  Ryan Kelsey comes to us with a good analytical background, as well as local hospitality experience at the Charter in Beaver Creek and Destination Resorts in Vail.  We’re excited to welcome Ryan to the team, and love the fact that he can focus on this crazy puzzle of selling hotel rooms and providing the best possible return to our owners, while still maintaining great customer loyalty.

These days, when people ask me, “So how’s business?”  My pat answer is, “Well, it’s pretty good, but it sure ain’t easy!”  I realize that doesn’t make us special.  Business everywhere is tougher than it used to be.  Heck, it isn’t always easy being a consumer, either.  Think of the travelers who have to deal with the same plethora of choices about where and how to book their rooms. We’d love to hear from any of you who have a favorite way to book hotel reservations.  Naturally, we love it when you call us directly. That gives us the best chance of understanding all your preferences and satisfying all of your needs. But if you’ve found a preferable way to get a great Antlers suite with just a few online clicks, we’d love to know how and why.  And we promise to share the info with Ryan.

We Lost A Great One

Col. Don circa 1990We lost another one.  A great one.  One of the original Antlers owners.  He liked to tell the story about walking through the building (the original building) when it was a concrete shell.  Must’ve been 1971.  Colonel Don Wiethuechter (pronounced Wee-Tuke-Ter) was known to us as just Col. Don.  He was as supportive an owner as there ever was.  He came to every annual owners meeting as well as one or two other times a year, and always offered encouragement and appreciation.  Sure, on occasion he may have tied me up on the phone for a few minutes too long (hours, maybe?), but what I wouldn’t give right now to hear that voice say, “Hello Mr. Manager … How are you doing today?”

Col. Don and Bud Benedict were great chums and I remember when Bud retired, me being a little worried about that element of the transition.  My worries were unfounded … Col. Don had my back just as much as he ever had Bud’s … and as much as any other owner ever has.

I always claim that the Antlers Heart and Soul is what sets us apart from our competition.  It’s unquestionably what has kept me here (and happy) for 36 years.  Well, if ever there was a symbol of our heart and soul, it was Col. Don.  We’ve had some great owner/cheerleaders over the years, but Col. Don was Col. Don circa 1995there with the best of them.  I think we only took second place to his beloved Huskies at the University of Washington, and maybe his employer of 30+ years, the U.S. Army.

He would frequently travel with the Washington football team to away games and I think even received some sort of super-booster honor at mid-field one time.  I remember when Rick Neuheisel got the coaching job at UW, after getting canned from CU.  Things didn’t go so well for Rick at Udub either and we had a great time ribbing Col. Don for years afterward about our hand-me-down.  Despite his propensity to bleed purple (as they say), he always took it well.

I think we only have five or six of the original owners left now, although there are happily another six or eight that have been handed down in their families.  It’s such a bummer to see the number dwindle, but Col. Don will always be a permanent part of Antlers lore.