Randi Davis, Controller Extraordinaire

When I became the Antlers General Manager in 1987, the very first senior manager I brought on board was Randi Davis. It’s not very far-fetched to say that my first hire was my best hire. Lucky for us, thirty years later Randi is still with the Antlers today!

In addition to the normal challenges of her role as Controller, Randi had the added pressure of being hired to do a job which I had held along the way. Happily, I can’t think of a single instance when I was tempted to say, “But this is the way I did it.” In virtually every circumstance, she performed her duties as well, and generally better, than I ever did.  Frankly, it’s kind of humbling.

Her job includes ALL of the HOA accounting. Many condominium properties of our size have two, and sometimes three people, to execute their accounting functions.  Not the Antlers … it’s just Randi. Even more impressive is the fact that she handles the majority of the HR functions as well! Again, other properties often have a dedicated person performing just those tasks.  More than once I have explained to the Antlers owners that Randi fulfills the roles of two complete departments … All. By. Herself.

Riding the gondola with Magdalena

The annual audit for the Antlers is always performed by an independent CPA. We’ve had four different companies provide that service for us over the years. Perhaps the greatest testimony to the quality of Randi’s work comes without fail at the end of each fiscal year, when after about a bazillion transactions, the auditing company has so few “adjusting entries” to our books and to all the work that Randi has done throughout the year. There have even been a couple years when they had none.  Now that’s just about unheard of in the accounting world!

Our employees have always enjoyed the enormous benefit of having an on-site HR person helping them with everything from insurance claims to their 401K plan. No outsourcing here. The Antlers was even one of the first small companies to provide a cafeteria plan for our employees, and over the years we’ve continued to be on the cutting edge when it comes to employee benefits. All of those programs were implemented and administered initially by Randi Davis.

Ripping it up in the back bowls

Beyond performing her work duties with the utmost poise, Randi is equally graceful outside the office. Whether it’s carving turns through the powder on Forever (or tearing up the bumps on Highline), or pedaling her bike across the finish line of another one-day century ride, I’ve had the pleasure of watching her always make it look easy. Always up for an adventure, when she announced a few years ago that she was going to climb Kilamanjaro, our collective reaction was … of course you are. And of course she did!

Of all those wonderful qualities, both in and outside the workplace, perhaps Randi’s greatest strength of all has been the fact that everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) at the Antlers, loves her. I think I’ve seen close to 200 employees cross the Antlers threshold since 1978, and there hasn’t been a single other person who has had more universal respect and admiration, than Randi Davis. Of course it helps when you’re the one doing payroll, but still …     In addition to being great at her job, she’s just so damn pleasant.

The women of Antlers … awards banquet 2011

Riding with Team Antlers, here at the famous ice cream truck on the Colorado River Ride, with friend Lisa Siegert Free.

Long story short, it has been my personal immense joy, and the Antlers incredible good fortune, to have known and worked with my friend Randi for these past 30 years.

 

Star Shortstop on the Antlers softball team

You wouldn’t know that these ladies just finished a 100 mile bike ride, Randi and our friend Karen Braden-Butz

With Stephanie Willingham … circa 1990, when big sunglasses were all the rage

The Antlers crack bowling team

Riding the chairlift with our best friend, Bert Farin

Randi Davis … elegant, yet grounded. Never one to take herself too seriously. A role model for all of us.

Featured Staff Member: Dave Collins

Dave Collins with his wife, Libby.

When Dave Collins lived at the Antlers in 1976 he certainly didn’t foresee working for the Antlers many years later. He joined the Antlers team about four years ago as project manager overseeing all of our platinum remodels. It is a big job considering how many owners have upgraded their units in recent years. While some of the remodels are small jobs, one or two per season is down to the studs. Right now in Vail the construction trade is in high demand. Not only is the Antlers able to provide a better cost for our owners by having Dave manage the projects, but owners would be hard pressed to find a contractor to take on any smaller jobs in this market. His expertise is invaluable. Dave keeps the projects moving and on schedule so that we can get remodeled condos back in the rental pool for peak seasons.

As Magda King says, “Dave is simply the best! He is thoughtful, smart, and of great support to all of us. I am not sure what we did to deserve him. We are very fortunate”

So who is Dave Collins? Like so many here, he moved here to ski. Back in 1970 he worked at Bill Duddy’s Ski Rentals and taught skiing. In 1973 he got into the construction business and built log homes, about 50 to 60, of them until 1980. He moved back to Denver and took on some large projects including the Oxford Hotel. He then moved just a little further south and built homes in Castle Rock. Then in the mid 1980s Beverly Hills called. He moved out to LA, lived on a boat and built homes for big wigs in the entertainment industry. In 1995 he sailed that boat up to the Northwest and built homes on Bainbridge Island outside of Seattle until he got a call to come back to Vail to work on the Austria Haus, Alpine Club at Arrowhead and other Arrowhead developments including a $40 million home. He built the Adam’s Rib Clubhouse (now Frost Creek) and more. In 2008 after the financial and construction bust he went back to teaching skiing and even got his level 3 certificate. Kind of a big deal at his age, as he says. We are now lucky to have that breadth of experience put to good use in bringing our condos to platinum levels.

He has been married 14 years to his girlfriend from 1970 whom he met at the Gondola Ski Shop. He has one daughter in New York, four step children, and three step grand kids (2 in Denver and 1 in LA). He lives in Gypsum, drives a big truck and a roadster. He still loves to ski, ride motorcycles, golf and fly fish.In his spare time he works on his house and also does wood work.

The Antlers Maintenance Department with Associate Executive housekeeper, Gladys Contreras and General Manager, Magda King.

 

A New Elevator? Oh, We Hope So!

With all of the many improvements that the Antlers has made over the years, we know that our real Achilles’ Heel is the south (original) elevator. Clearly it does not begin to match the Platinum quality that we have worked so hard to achieve in the condominiums. Although we have spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to make that elevator acceptable, the handwriting is on the wall that it just needs to be completely replaced.

A little historical perspective …

Only a few guests and owners will remember that the original elevator had just three landings to service our seven story building! It stopped on 2½, 4½ & 6½. That was it. Everywhere you got out of the elevator, you had to go up or down a half flight of stairs to get to any condominium. Hard to believe, I know. People in the first floor units had to hike a half flight up to the lower parking level and three half-flights up to the lobby. It’s hard to comprehend the hassle of moving everything … from luggage to furniture. We didn’t have any luggage carts, instead using an appliance dolly with a big drop down tongue. Oddly, back in the day, our guests and owners didn’t seem to mind when we handed them that thing. I can only imagine what people would think if that happened today. Oh my goodness!

Our housekeepers were practically body builders from having to literally carry their vacuum cleaners and all their cleaning supplies up and down stairs all day long. To go to the swimming pool from the 6th floor, you had to walk up a half flight of stairs to catch the elevator, ride down to the lobby level and then walk down another flight and a half to the first floor. The return trip, dripping wet in the dead of winter, would be beyond intolerable by today’s standards.

I remember working at the front desk in the early 80’s and dreading the late night call from a guest asking for a rollaway. I would have to manhandle it alone, up and down those same stairs.  In every respect the inconvenience was unbelievable and looking back, it’s amazing that our owners and guests tolerated it for twenty years.

My first significant capital project as General Manager was in 1994 when we finally figured out that we could build glass-enclosed landings on the west side of the shaft (which was previously outdoor, open airspace). That allowed the elevator to have doors front and back, stopping on every floor. Oh, the convenience!

Unfortunately, the first and second floor openings were constrained by a massive concrete retaining wall, which is why those two doors are much narrower than all the other floors and don’t come close to meeting the building codes of 2017. That retaining wall remains one of our physical constraints today.

The original elevator was a hydraulic piston elevator, more typically suited for a two, or at most, three story building. The original four story run (from the lobby level at floor 2½ up to 6½) was too much for a single piston, so it had a two-stage “jack”. Even that was pushing the limits and maintenance on it was a major hassle from day one.

When we added the extra landings in 1994, the distance from the first floor to the seventh was far too great for any two stage piston, and the accompanying underground silo was nowhere near deep enough, so we had to import a three stage jack from Germany. I was told that it was the only one in America at the time. There’s a reason for that … the third stage had to be of such small diameter (to fit inside stages one and two), that when it was fully extended it had all the stability of a spaghetti noodle. Maintenance challenges continued, to say the least.

Our other intrinsic problem is that the elevator and associated equipment room are basically outdoor, untempered spaces. That meant the hydraulic fluid would get way too cold in the winter and because of the added stress of the long rise, it would get way too hot in the summer. As a result, sometimes the elevator just wouldn’t run at all. We added hydraulic fluid heaters early on, and only recently added a loop to run the fluid out into the garage to help cool it in the summer. Both solutions helped, but were compromises at best.

Since day one, both before and after the 1994 redesign, our elevator has been our weakest link and the source of innumerable guest complaints. The maintenance on it has continued to get more and more challenging and expensive. We are now in a situation where people have actually been stuck in the elevator. It has happened several times in the past few years and in the hospitality business, that is simply the textbook definition of “UNACCEPTABLE”. Although we’ve taken measures to make sure THAT doesn’t happen again, the elevator is still way too slow, and we just can’t continue to tolerate the inconvenience of those narrow door openings on the first two floors. After repeated efforts to improve or at least “band-aid” that thing, we just have to replace it!

With all that as background, the question today is, “Why can’t we just rebuild it in the current location with a modern, tension (cable) elevator, like every other tall building in the world?” The answer lies in a variety of physical constraints, combined with today’s building codes. The existing shaft is simply too small to accommodate both the elevator cab and the cables that have to run between the cab and the shaft wall. Enlarging that shaft is truly the only answer. You would think that could be done for less than the $1.7 million dollar cost that it will take to relocate a new elevator elsewhere. Sadly, you’d be wrong.

For starters, the main electrical service for a good part of the building runs adjacent to that shaft. Relocating it would be extremely difficult and expensive, although perhaps doable. The aforementioned retaining wall, will significantly hamper any redesign of the shaft until the building is completely torn down (let’s not do that). Even if we could get past those two hurdles, a major redesign would trigger building code access issues that include the space between the garage and the elevator, as well as the main stairway. Because of the structural nature of their concrete construction, redesigning and rebuilding those two areas quickly adds up to several million dollars alone … forget about the elevator itself. Lastly, any excavation necessary for the expansion of the current shaft would likely disturb the foundation of the original building.  The risk factor on that is so high, that any cost estimate would have to include an enormous contingency to cover that worst case scenario. It might be $4 million on the low end (just for the elevator) … but several times that amount on the high end, due to that risk exposure.

Bottom line, while it would seem logical to keep the elevator in the current location, and as much as we’d like to, it’s just not feasible.  Fortunately, local architect Henry Pratt has helped us to identify a new, alternative location in the southeast corner of the courtyard.  It’s next to the area that we currently use as bicycle storage in the summer. We’ll still have to cut through the post tension slabs that comprise the garage and parking deck.  That isn’t cheap or easy, but at least it’s viable, and with a lot less risk. With that new location comes the opportunity to make some much needed improvements to the lobby, front desk, reception area and associated office spaces. If we’re going to be considered a Platinum rated property, those spaces need to be upgraded to that level of quality, just as the condominiums have been. 

Fortunately, at our recent annual owners meeting, there was good consensus to do what needs to be done, even if it is quite expensive. We’re lucky that our ownership understands and appreciates the need to provide a great product for our guests … throughout the building. As we work through this process with the Antlers ownership, our hope is to break ground in the spring of 2019 and be operational by that ski season.  Stay tuned!

 

Thanksgiving in Vail | Leave the Cooking to Us

Chef Barry Robinson’s Delicious Thanksgiving Feast

Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner this year at the Antlers, catered by Chef Barry Robinson.

This Thanksgiving, leave the cooking to us! Enjoy Chef Barry Robinson’s delicious thanksgiving feast. Ideal for those who’d rather spend Thanksgiving in Vail on the slopes rather than in the kitchen. Chef Barry’s classic Thanksgiving feast lets guests enjoy the excitement of a Vail ski vacation, while still relishing the comforts of a home-cooked meal. Add Chef Barry’s Thanksgiving Dinner to your lodging reservation by Tuesday, November 21st. We will deliver it to your condo in recyclable, oven-proof containers in time for Thanksgiving Dinner. 

Turkey Shaped Sugar Cookie Kits are  available at the front desk for pick-up!

Vail Chef Barry Robinson will prepare Thanksgiving dishes he’s cooked for his own family for years. Dishes include roasted turkey breast and slow-cooked giblet gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans with toasted almonds, caramelized butternut squash, savory stuffing, tart cranberry sauce and mixed greens with herb dressing. And dinner wouldn’t be complete without the Chef’s classic pumpkin pie with vanilla bean ice cream. Chef will deliver the meal to your condo in ovenproof, recyclable containers for heating and serving at your convenience on Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving dinner is $40 per person (plus 8.4% tax).

Home-Away-From-Home Antlers at Vail Thanksgiving

Relax in the Antlers platinum-rated Condo Suites.

With our friendly staff and comfortable condominiums, we strive to provide a “home away from home” experience for our guests. Antlers condos are comfortable for families, groups of friends and even pets. All Antlers’ suites feature a fully equipped kitchen making leftovers easily to reheat. A spacious dining and living area, cozy bedrooms and gas fireplaces make relaxing easy. Book your Thanksgiving lodging reservation with us today. Enjoy Vail, a delicious thanksgiving meal, and all the comforts of home at the Antlers. 

Simply add dinner to your reservation when you book your Antlers lodging, or call 970.476.2471 to add it on to an existing reservation.

An Antlers at Vail lodging & Thanksgiving dinner package is also available.

Relax this Thanksgiving in Vail. This Thanksgiving leave the cooking to us and enjoy Chef Barry Robinson's delicious thanksgiving feast, and bake-your-own sugar cookies.

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Vertebrate and Invertebrate Education for Housekeeping Week

The Antlers is known for offering some out of the box activities for housekeeping week. One year it was Zumba classes. This year we topped that with a Walking Mountains science program.

Walking Mountains came to the Antlers and conducted an interactive program on a beautiful day by the pool. Did you know that Walking Mountains offers adult programs? Well they do offer hikes but for something like this you may need to arrange a private custom program.

The program was a hands on experience to learn about vertebrates and invertebrates animals. They had the opportunity to dissect a fish and a squid and had LOTS of fun along the way. It also gave everyone an idea of what their kids get to experience while at Walking Mountains camps.

Scott Robinson, Director of Marketing and Communications for Walking Mountains concluded, “What a great experience. We were so pleased to see how engaged your staff was.”

Check out a few of the fun photos below.

Antlers at Vail housekeepers participating in a Walking Mountains science program for Housekeeping Week.

Antlers at Vail housekeepers participating in a Walking Mountains science program for Housekeeping Week.

 Antlers at Vail housekeepers learn about vertebrates and invertebrates.

Antlers at Vail housekeepers learn about vertebrates and invertebrates.

Antlers housekeepers dissect fish and squid during a Walking Mountains program.

Antlers housekeepers dissect fish and squid during a Walking Mountains program.

Antlers housekeepers after their Walking Mountains science program.

Antlers housekeepers after their Walking Mountains science program.

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Our Youngest Site Tour Yet: Second Graders Learning About Services

Local second graders touring the Antlers, and asking questions of the front desk.

Last week we had the pleasure of giving a site tour to a group of second graders from our local school. We give many, many site tours throughout the year but this one might have been the most fun. The kids were engaged and had lots of great questions about the services that we provide as a hotel. The kids has the opportunity to ask the front desk some questions and then to tour one of our four-bedroom condominiums, see the conference space and end up down at the pool. Thanks to these kids for such an interest in the Antlers!

 

Thank you to these local second graders for their interest in learning the services the Antlers at Vail offers.

Featured Staff Member: Liana Moore

Every e-newsletter, we feature a staff member. It is Liana (our Director of Marketing) who typically coordinates the staff interviews and pictures. Furthermore, she puts together the entire e-newsletter that you receive every two months.

This month I want to take some time to tell you more about her. Liana wears many hats. She is a Mamma Blogger (you should check her wonderful blog, Insider Families) a business owner of a small marketing agency and an incredible wife and mom of two – Taya and Niko.

We are so lucky to have her as a part of our team. She guided us through the process of updating our Corporate Image with a new logo and new… well almost everything. She introduces us to cutting edge technologies that enhance our online presence, improve user experience and make more revenue for our owners. When we are all puzzled with the overwhelming amount of information, her reassuring manners keep us focused and advises us towards the best path — A path that has provided so many positive results to our property.

Liana is a wealth of marketing information, always ready to share her knowledge and help any other staff member, at any time! She also helps other moms on our staff when sharing her own parenting experience. We all enjoy listening her well rounded traveling experiences and how she handles any difficulties when they arise.

Thank you, Liana! The Antlers is so grateful to you and your family. You truly help us to become better and better.

~Magda King

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Antlers Teams Receives Leadership Training

The housekeeping team were all smiles after being selected for and receiving face-to-face leadership training from VALUEUSA.

Last year the Antlers was the honored recipient of the Vail Valley Partnership’s Community Impact Award and then this year our own General Manager, Magdalena King won the Hospitality Professional of the Year.  These awards are not just a reflection of the culture fostered at the Antlers, but also a refection of the dedication of Antlers employees. Many members of the Antlers team go home after a long day’s work to study math, read a book or do homework with the goal of bettering themselves and their community.

Several years ago Magdalena initiated a partnership with the Literacy Project and then subsequently with the Vail Library to provide the Antlers housekeeping team with the resources to be able to learn English and to be able to advance their education. Since then several members of the Antlers housekeeping team have gone on to earn their GED and all have been learning English and participating in a book club. Because of their dedication to these programs they were selected to receive leadership training through Voice of Adult Learners United to Educate (VALUEUSA). In May VALUEUSA brought instructors to the Antlers to provide our housekeeping team face-to-face training to help them become better leaders in the community. They learned critical thinking skills, organizational skills, priority setting and more.

Both the Antlers front desk team and maintenance team have followed lead in starting up book clubs. The front desk has read a handful of books and engineering just got started with their book club, having now completed reading and discussing the management style in “The One-Minute Manager.”

The cumulative effect of many different Antlers employee programs … book club, English classes, a financial education series presented in Spanish, and others … play an instrumental role in some of our staff’s decision to go back to school, get their GED and effectively change their lives forever.

Extended Stays at the Antlers

Bob Johnson & his Husky, Lily, enjoy living like locals at the Antlers.

The Antlers is grateful to have many guests who make our hotel their home for a month or longer. It’s always fun to hear their stories, and welcome these guests back. Our 30 Day Live-Like-a-Local package has received national attention in a recent publication of the Boston Globe. The package includes tax-free luxury lodging in a variety of options from a studio to four-bedroom residences; complimentary lawn tickets for Bravo! Vail and Vail International Dance Festival, Vail Jazz Festival, and Vail Summer Bluegrass Series tickets (depending on event dates); complimentary bikes; loaner GoPro camera; and unlimited access to the Vail Athletic Club. With the launch of this package it is timely to share feedback from guests who’ve recently stayed 30 days or more with us here at the Antlers.

Meet Bob Johnson

Bob, his wife Heather, and their playful husky, Lily, have stayed about a month with us every winter for the past 8 years in one of our pet-friendly condos. They visit us from Washington state. Bob & Heather found the Antlers by way of their friends who were attending a medical conference and have stayed with us ever since. Bob told me that they return each year because the Antlers makes for a flawless 30 days. Being close to the lifts, close to restaurants, and always having the friendly Antlers staff available to help makes their vacation perfect. Bob also told me that it’s the relationship that makes the difference for them in staying here instead of at other properties. “The staff is always friendly and says hello”, he says. During their stay Heather enjoys our complimentary yoga classes, they dine at Vail’s many great restaurants, they have longer ski days sometimes, and other times enjoy a couple of hours on the slopes. Having the Antlers as their home base makes skiing extremely easy with Ski Butlers ski valet service and our proximity to the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Staying with us for 30 days gives them the opportunity to enjoy a sport they love hassle-free, and is a special highlight to look forward to every year. They find that their extended stay is an incredible value. Hearing this from Bob really made our day, and he told us that we made their month. They’re lovely people. It’s always a pleasure to welcome Bob & Heather back.

Meet Mike Beatty & Sue Burton

Another wonderful family we get the opportunity to see every year is Mike Beatty, Sue Burton, and their lovely lab, Lulu, (not pictured). They visit us every year from Ontario. Mike and Sue have been guests of ours for about 10 years. They love our service, hospitality, and our proximity to the Eagle Bahn Gondola. Mike & Sue say that everything about the Antlers is excellent. During their most recent stay with us, we had the pleasure of inviting them to a local celebration of the Vail Symposium’s 45th anniversary of Convening Locally, Thinking Globally. It was wonderful to catch up with them, have dinner, and talk about our ski days together. They’re wonderful people, and it’s delightful to welcome them back to the Antlers year after year.  

Whether you’re enjoying the slopes for a long holiday in the winter, or enjoying a season of Bravo performances in the summer, the Antlers is a wonderful place to call home for your extended stay in beautiful Vail, Colorado. Are you interested in becoming one of our extended-stay guests? Keep us in mind! We’d love the opportunity to invite you in to the Antlers family.

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Aniceto Quinones, Best Laundry Worker There Is, Retires

In 1994 Aniceto Quinones was looking at the classifieds and jumped out of his chair to run to the kitchen where his wife was cooking his favorite meal.  “Ilda, Ilda, I found the job I want.  I’m going to the Antlers to tell them I’m their man.”  Millie Barela hired him that week to take care of the Antlers’ tremendous laundry facility.  Ever since, he’s been the first one to work in the morning, one of the last to leave at night and he takes his job very seriously.  On average, Aniceto works 10 hours a day because that is his work ethic.

The laundry facility that Aniceto calls his home away from home, is not what it was 15 years ago.  When he started there was one washer and two dryers which he managed until our 2000 building expansion which incorporated 22 additional condominiums.  The laundry is now equipped with the newest and most efficient machines available. 

Since then Aniceto Quinones has arguably been the single most important employee at the Antlers.  We could compensate for any number of mistakes or shortcomings , but our guests and owners have absolutely no tolerance (nor should they) for sheets and towels that are not perfectly cleaned.  Like many other Antlers employees, Aniceto will tell you that he’s not just running the laundry … he’s making sure our guests have a great vacation. 

The Antlers is eternally grateful for Aniceto’s many years of dedication and exceptional performance.

Aniceto is the best laundry worker there is.  That’s not only our opinion, but that of Bill Jones, the owner of In-House Laundry.  Bill is our vendor for laundry supplies as well as the laundry equipment  itself.  His company services about 75 hotel operations in the Vail and Roaring Fork Valleys, and there’s nobody more qualified to pass judgment on Aniceto’s performance.   When he says that the Antlers has the best, it means the Antlers has the best.  But sadly not for much longer.

Aniceto has announced his retirement and is leaving us this month to enjoy his family in Mexico. We are eternally grateful for his years of dedication and exceptional performance. We are sure happy for him, but his shoes will be hard to fill.

General Manager, Magdalena King expressed her well wishes, “It’s been an honor and a pleasure to work with Aniceto all of these years. His invaluable service as a laundry man, many times was unnoticed because we never had any issues in his department. Everything was accomplished in timely manner and exceptionally well.  Aniceto never expected a reward or the recognition, yet he is always the first one to celebrate others. He’s made his family proud.  We all feel nothing but gratitude for all these years of commitment to the Antlers”.