The Next Antlers General Manager

June, 1978 – Freshly graduated from Colorado College with a degree in Business Administration, I had moved to Vail, 100% clueless about my future.  Mike O’Dell, a golfing buddy from previous summers working at the Eagle Vail golf course told me his wife was having a baby and would be leaving her job as controller of a little hotel called the Antlers.  I should apply.  “After all”, he said, “you’ve been to college, you must be a smart  guy … you could probably do that job.”  I went and interviewed with Bud Benedict, the Antlers General Manager.  I remember his exact words … “You’ve been to college … you must be a smart guy, you can probably do this job.”

Fast forward 38 years.  As we near my last days as the Antlers GM, one of my very few regrets is that I didn’t start keeping a journal on that day in 1978. There have been some hilarious stories and I wish I could remember one out of fifty.  Sadly, I can’t even do that.  Oh well …

Rob-&-Magda-0616One big regret that I could have, and don’t … is leaving the Antlers in hands any less capable than mine.  When Magdalena Isabel Cedeño Cabrera King told me in 2007 that she’d give me five years if I hired her, little did I know that she would turn out to have the unique combination of people skills, financial acumen and overall business sense that you find once in a blue moon.  Head and Heart, as Bob Vanourek would say … in this case, to the max.  I did know that nobody had ever committed to five years of employment in a job interview with me before, and I was duly impressed.  Turns out she had a great sense of destiny, along with all those other considerable talents.

When I told the Board of Directors last December that the 2016 annual meeting would be my last, there was no doubt in my mind who the correct successor was.  As boards do, they felt an obligation to “explore all their options”.  I simultaneously respected and ridiculed that decision. After all, the perfect candidate was right here … already in the fold.  In the end, after a series of interviews and thoughtful consideration, our board came to the absolute right decision.  On October 1,  Magda will become the third General Manager in the Antlers’ 44-year history.Rob-&-Magda-0616-b

Some people tell me that my shoes will be hard to fill, (others tell me to not let the door … ). I’m confident it won’t be a problem. Beyond speaking five languages and having the heart and grace of a saint, Magdalena has an innate understanding that “hospitality” isn’t just a word or a business sector. It’s a guiding principle and Magda lives and breathes it.  Besides, she’s been to college, she’s a smart gal … she can do this job.

Leaving the only career I’ve ever known comes with a predictable amount of angst, but as far as the future of the Antlers is concerned, there’s no way I could be more optimistic.

Our Incredible Housekeepers

housekeepersMany people have asked me what kept me at the Antlers for the last 9 years. There are many answers to this question:

I could focus on flexibility;  My job gives me the opportunity to balance my work/family time in a fair way.

It has given me opportunities;  I’ve been able to travel, meet exciting people, work on new ideas, and it has given me the freedom to put these ideas into practice.

All of these are great reasons, but those are not the real cause of my stay. It is its people who kept me here. I will focus on my housekeepers.  Yes, the ones who make your beds, clean your bathrooms, and take care of every detail while you’re visiting.  They are very visionary women who inspire our community.

Did you know that they love to read? They are the only housekeeping team in the Vail Valley who are regular users of our Public Library Services and read one book every two months. Their exchanges are amazing.

Did you know that they have decided to be part of a program called: “Common Cents for Colorado” which taught them how to handle money, make financial decisions, and give them a better sense of investments?

Did you know that every week, as a part of their Literacy Project, they study English to ensure the very best service to our guests?

They have a genuine interest in our guests, who with time, become part of our family. They miss them if they do not come back, and they are as happy as any when they return.

When I ask them “why”, their answers are convincing: They came to this country to have a better future, and to be a role model in our society.  My housekeepers know that you get things through hard work, and they all have a very high work ethic.  They understand what makes our guests happy, and they thrive on making it happen.

Did you know that 9 of our housekeepers registered today, (May 3, 2016), at Colorado Mountain College to formally study for their GED Test?  They want to graduate from high school, and they want to serve better. In a few words, they want to be an example to their children.

I cannot be more proud of each one of them. They are an inspiration to me, and they are probably the main reason why I am here.  I encourage you to visit the Antlers.  You are in for a real treat to have such amazing women serving you each day.

Magdalena King

Felted Pink Hat for Pink Vail

To bid on this one-of-a-kind pink wool hat email rob (at) antlersvail (dot) com by 4 pm on Friday, March 31, 2016.

To bid on this one-of-a-kind pink wool hat email rob (at) antlersvail (dot) com by 4 pm on Friday, March 31, 2016.

Ever heard of Felting? Well… we have. It is a fibre arts craft that our very own Antlers family member, Evelyn Pinney, has taken a shine to. It is an age-old craft, perhaps developed in the Middle East or the Far East, a process that has evolved with local traditions wherever it was used. From artists creating unique pieces of art to nomads on the great plains of Asia creating felt yurts for shelter, the art still exists today. Needle felting is a popular form of felting that creates felt from wool using special needles that are used in industrial felting machines as a sculpting tool. Well, you may wonder why we are writing about felting. Once a year a very unique event come to Vail — Pink Vail — the world’s largest ski day to conquer cancer. And, when such a good cause and fun event comes to town our very own artist and felter gets to work and creates a one-of-a-kind pink hat for some lucky bidder to be able to sport on the mountain for Pink Vail, AND the funds go to benefit cancer patients and survivors at the Shaw Cancer Center. To make this one-of-a-kind pink wool hat your very own and support a great cause you can place a bid via email rob (at) antlersvail (dot) com or 970-790-5200 by 4 pm on Friday, March 31, 2016.

Want to learn more about the process of felting? Watch this short video.

 

 

Postscript, April 4 – The hat sold for $75.  A check for that amount is winging its way toward Pink Vail.

Giving Back

Our Antlers team is very fortunate to be able to work for an organization with a culture that values staff empowerment and giving back. We very often receive thank you notes that make our day. They may be to individual team members for going above and beyond or even for having given back to the community in one way or another. The Antlers also encourages individual team members to give back to the community and while probably most of us do, some do so in ways that are even more impactful than what we get to do here as an Antlers team member — such as saving lives!

Our Chief Engineer, Tom Schlader aka "Sludge", who also goes by the title "Director of Preservation" volunteers and plays a pretty big role at Vail Mountain Rescue.

Our Chief Engineer, Tom Schlader aka “Sludge” volunteers and is someone who truly excels at giving back through his volunteer work at Vail Mountain Rescue.

Our Chief Engineer, Tom Schlader aka “Sludge”, who also goes by the title “Director of Preservation” volunteers and plays a pretty big role at Vail Mountain Rescue Group. Vail Mountain Rescue is a volunteer group providing back country search and rescue, as well as public education on back country safety, in Eagle County. The team is responsible for all search and rescue operations in the unincorporated areas of the County. Vail Mountain Rescue Group recently shared with us a thank you note that they received that gives a nice shout out to  Sludge who frequently goes on missions much more dangerous than this one.  We’re very proud of his commitment and service.

“In early December I went for a snowshoe to Fowler Hilliard Hut at 11,500 ft and got pretty bad altitude sickness. It was scary! Vail Mountain Rescue folks evacuated me and brought me down the mountain on snowmobiles at about midnight, and even brought my friend who had driven me to the trail head, too. Jared, Jeff, Justin, Tom(Sludge), and Megan were wonderful and took good care of me. They were so nice and caring, didn’t act at all irritated to be out in the 10 degree cold on a Friday night and actually told me they love what they do. I was SOOOO grateful for their services and I am safe and healthy now. Thank you so much!!!”  —  Jennifer Ayers

Antlers at Vail Holiday Parties

The Antlers at Vail conference space decorate for the 2014 staff holiday party.

The Antlers at Vail conference space decorated for the 2014 staff holiday party.

Antlers at Vail is well known for hosting community events. Many local government and non-profit boards hold regular meetings at the Antlers. Many of these tend to be breakfast meetings so not everyone thinks of us for Vail holiday parties, but they should! We think our conference space is so great for company holiday parties that we even hosted our own at the Antlers last year and it was fantastic! The lobby and conference space were decorates with charming holiday decor, holiday music was playing on the state-of-the-art AV system, fantastic food and beverages were served, Santa visited the kids and the snow outside the windows set the stage. Since the Antlers at Vail conference space also offers a beautiful piano perfect for holiday music, as well as interchangeable wall murals (aspen trees or mountain scene) for one wall.

Call Cherie at 970.790.5217 for more information on Antlers at Vail holiday parties.

Call Cherie at 970.790.5217 for more information on Antlers at Vail holiday parties.

Chef Barry Robinson of Caterers of Vail has been providing a delectable culinary experience to a variety of clients ranging from discriminating wedding couples to sophisticated meeting planners since 2007. Chef Barry’s commitment to detail is unmatched and you can rest assured that you will receive the very best in quality, presentation and service. And he is always happy to customize menus to your preferences.

Call Cherie at 970.790.5217 to learn more about Antlers at Vail holiday parties and how we can help make yours a success!

Featured 2-Bedroom Antlers at Vail Condo

One of the joys of staying at the Antlers at Vail is that the condominiums are true vacation homes. Each homeowner has put forth the effort to make their condo a special home for guests to enjoy.

Joe & Marie Forish, Featured Antlers at Vail Homeowners

Joe & Marie Forish, Featured Antlers at Vail Homeowners

2-bedroom Antlers at Vail Condo 414 has only had two sets of owners. In 2007 Joe & Marie Forish purchased their condo from the son of an original Antlers owner. The Forishes were some of the first owners to buy in to the Antlers new unit quality improvement plan and proceeded to quickly earn their condo a platinum rating. Joe & Marie had beautiful durable porcelain hardwood installed in the living, kitchen and hall areas. They added new slab granite, tile backsplash and Whirlpool stainless steel appliances in the kitchen. The bathrooms received new granite countertops, sinks and faucets achieving a beautiful contemporary look. And, throughout new wood beams on the ceiling accent the new leather furniture, as well as new dining room furniture and bar stools.

414_kitchen

The spacious kitchen, living and dining areas were remodeled to include a beautiful and durable hardwood-looking porcelain tile, wood beams on the ceiling, slab granite counters, tile backsplash and stainless steel appliances,

What motivated you to make the Antlers at Vail your vacation home in Vail?

We started coming to Vail many years ago for ski vacations when our children were young. We loved the family atmosphere and eventually decided to invest in property there after our son moved to the Vail Valley upon finishing college. After a lot of research and investigation of dozens of properties, we decided to buy our unit at the Antlers. The location was great with just a short walk to the Lionshead lifts. It had great access to the TOV bus and good restaurants within walking distance, but probably the biggest positive was the great staff. Everyone from the senior leadership like Rob and Magda to the housekeeping and maintenance personnel to the desk staff were so friendly and customer-oriented that we knew it should be our “home away from home”. We also liked the fact that we knew our home would be well cared-for by the management when we were not there.

What is special about your Antlers vacation home?

We have tried to make our unit a warm and welcoming home for anyone who visits and uses the unit. We’ve gone to some lengths to choose high quality furnishings and appoint it in a manner which is comfortable and yet elegant. Small touches like the stained glass panels which reflect the afternoon sunsets, the upgraded furnishings and all the coordinated accessories are meant to make visitors feel that our home is very much their home while they visit. The fact that we have a bedroom with a King bed, a second with 2 Queen beds and a very comfortable pull-out sofa bed also means that a larger family can stay together in our unit rather than renting an even larger one — or having to rent two units. It is quite simply a  great place to return to after a day on the slopes or out in the beauty of the Vail Valley.

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.

Vail Valley Hospitality Professional of the Year!

Last Friday night, January 31, The Vail Valley Partnership held their annual Success Awards Gala.  It’s the same event at which the Antlers won the Business of the Year Award in 2003 and the Green Business of the Year in 2009.  This year, our very own Magdalena King was nominated for Hospitality Professional of the Year.  Out of several dozen nominees, Magda was then chosen as one of three finalists going into the awards ceremony.  Two nights ago at the Vilar Center, we erupted in cheers when her name was called from the stage as the Vail Valley Hospitality Professional of 2014.

Magda award

We could simply not be any more proud of Magda.  It’s so nice to know that others recognized what we already knew … that nobody could possibly be more deserving of this recognition. I could go on and on (and would be happy to).  However, let me just say that in addition to the countless examples of her professionalism (and everything that entails), Magda constantly inspires me and everyone else around her, to be more professional as well.

Magda & Cristina

It was quite fitting that upon receiving her award, she offered a brief “acceptance speech” which was both gracious and thoughtful.  Almost as many people (probably a hundred) congratulated her on her “award winning” public comments, as on the actual award itself.  It was great!

Shame on us for one thing … we didn’t think to get a good picture of Magda in her time of grandeur.  I took this one of her and her sister Cristina (on the left) with my phone.  It will have to do for now, but that’s a shame because there is also a great story behind her beautiful dress.

At the party afterward when Jill Lammers, the Vice-President of the Partnership, complimented Magda on that dress, I had to jump in and point out that Magda told me she had designed it herself, back when she lived in Ecuador.  Jill’s reaction was immediate, humorous and perfect … “Shut UP!” she exclaimed, “You win this award AND you designed your own dress!  You’re killing me.”

All in all, thanks to Magdalena, the whole evening made all of us at the Antlers feel super proud.

Rob

Nothing But Platinum Rated Condos

We used to just be in the condominium management and short term vacation rental business, but now we find ourselves in the construction business as well.

Like every vacation condominium property in the world, we wrestle with individual unit decorating and variance of quality.  After forty plus years of non-stop pleading with some owners to “fix it up”, we have just instituted a formal Unit Quality Improvement plan.  Now we are not only encouraging and rewarding those condominium owners who invest the most, but now we also have some sticks to go with those carrots.

As a result, 43 out of our 88 rental units have made, or are making, upgrades to their property.  Some are big projects, some smaller, but all are meaningful improvements.  And that’s in just this year … we expect to have that much and more, in the next couple years following.   Which brings us to the construction business.  If we’re going to become a completely Platinum rated property, as is our goal, we can’t just tell our condominium owners, “You go figure it out.”

Rather, it’s our job to facilitate everything from new furniture and soft goods, to new flooring, windows, appliances, cabinets and some major renovations.

Tom c

Antlers at Vail Chief Engineer, Tom Schlader

David Collins s

Dave Collins, the newest addition to the Antlers engineering department

Fortunately our Chief Engineer, Tom Schlader, is an accomplished contractor in his own right.  It’s a good thing, because coordinating and implementing this many simultaneous but diverse projects is way more than a handful.  So much so, that we just brought on long-time local Dave Collins to help Tom in that role.  Dave has worked as a project manager for projects large and small so his skills are exactly what we need.

The Antlers commitment in this regard is enormous … in both time and money.  That’s okay though.  Like so many others, our business model is changing and we can either embrace that change, or get run over.

Happily, we plan to be the runner, not the runee.

Congratulations to Magda King as VVP Hospitality Professional of the Year Finalist

Magdalena King, Antlers at Vail Assistant Manager, is a finalist for the VVP Hospitality Professional of the Year

Magdalena King, Antlers at Vail Assistant Manager, is a finalist for the VVP Hospitality Professional of the Year

Magdalena King came to work at the Antlers at Vail as Conference Services Manager six years ago, and shortly thereafter moved into the position of Director of Sales. She has been our assistant manager now for just over a year. We are so proud to share the news that she has not only been nominated as the Vail Valley Partnership’s (VVP) Hospitality professional of the Year, but last week was named as one of three finalists vying for the final honor.

Magda is originally from Ecuador, speaks four languages fluently, and until recently served on the board of the local chapter of the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI). She is a wonderful mother of two charming children, and she still manages to find time to teach English to and lead a book club for our housekeeping staff. We receive many lovely thank you notes from guests specifically thanking Magda for her warm welcome and assistance. And, perhaps most importantly, she challenges us all to be better.

We are so happy to have her as a such an integral part of our team and hope she receives the recognition she deserves and is named Hospitality Professional of the Year. We’re cheering for you Magda!