BIG Improvements in 2019

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, and all around the property. 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.

While it would seem logical to replace the elevator in its current location (and as much as we’d like to), due to current code issues and a myriad of physical constraints, 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. 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 also need to be upgraded to that level of quality, just as the condominiums have been. 

A much more welcoming entrance will give our guests and owners a far better first impression.  For anyone who has visited grand hotels or five-star resorts and observed how much gets invested in the arrival experience, it’s easy to understand the importance of that concept … particularly in the hospitality business.  A two story structure with vaulted ceilings will replace the Antlers current one-level front desk “pill box”, offering much more efficiency in addition to the radically improved aesthetics.

Fortunately, at a recent special meeting of the Antlers owners, there was overwhelming consensus to do what needs to be done, even if it is quite expensive. The total cost of the project is around four million dollars! We’re lucky that our ownership understands and appreciates the need to provide a great product for our guests … throughout the building.  Those that have been around for awhile also remember that similar investments they’ve made in the past, have been more than offset by the increased value of their property.

The plan now is to break ground in April 2019, at the end of ski season. Look for some good lodging deals during the summer! Then we should be 100% complete and ship shape in time for the 2019-2020 ski season.  Stay tuned for more information!

 

Pay It Backward Returns!

In today’s lexicon, 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 gesture of blind faith with the intent to perpetuate a series of future generous acts.

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, several years ago we at the Antlers decided to host a Pay It Backward weekend. In line with our constant desire to be a good corporate citizen, we identified three dozen deserving non-profits and invited each of them to designate a person of their choice to spend two free nights in Vail … no strings attached. It could be their Executive Director or a hard working staff 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 wanted … totally their choice. Naturally, “significant others” and family members were welcome also. We simply wanted 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

Needless to say, that first year was a tremendous success. Almost all of the invited nonprofits participated and sent a deserving staff member or volunteer.  They were all so appreciative and not only enjoyed a relaxing weekend away, but also the opportunity to connect with others.

Since then, we have held the second and third annual Pay It Backward Weekends. Not surprisingly, those were just as successful as the first one. In addition to the two free nights, the Antlers hosts a reception for everyone on Saturday evening. Similar to our weekly guest receptions in the winter, Chef Barry Robinson wows the crowd with his gourmet offerings. The Antlers provides plenty of wine and refreshments and people have a chance to share their non-profit’s story, if they choose. Again, no strings attached … people can come to mingle and network with all the other humanitarians, or they are totally excused if they’re just too busy enjoying Vail and our surrounding mountains.

In 2015, Fireside Productions attended on behalf of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and donated their time in producing a video that captured the spirit of the event …

The list of invitees has changed a bit, but over the years the following organizations have been invited (somewhat randomly) to participate. We have tried to find a good mix of social, environmental, humanitarian, health, military, children and animal related causes. The Antlers had a previous relationship with some of them and others we had just always admired. Naturally, there are a million others who would be equally deserving, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. 

Advocates for Children – CASA
Alliance for Sustainable Colorado
American Heart Association
American Red Cross Mile High Chapter
Arvada Center for the Arts
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 Horse Rescue
Colorado Public Radio
Colorado Fourteener Initiative
Colorado Water Trust
Conservation Colorado
Crossroads Safehouse
Denver Children’s Advocacy Center
Denver Dumb Friends League
Denver Indian Family Resource Center
Denver Rescue Mission
Easter Seals
Engineers Without Borders
Firefly Autism
Food Bank of the Rockies
Habitat for Humanity of Colorado
Hearts and Horses
The Home Front Cares
Hope House of Colorado
Hospice of Northern Colorado
IDE – International Development Enterprises
Joshua Station
MaxFund
Mesa County Partners
Mile High United Way
Mi Casa Resource Center

Rocky Mountain Raptor Program
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

      Plans are now underway for Pay It Backward IV on May 11 – 13, 2018! 

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

Featured Staff Member: Matthew Parrish

Matthew Parrish with his wife Gina and puppy Athena.

We like to think that we stole Matthew Parrish away from the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch. While working there he saw an ad for the Antlers, was impressed by the company culture that came through on our website and applied for a job. The fact that General Manager Rob LeVine called him directly to offer him the job made an ever-lasting impression. He loves the personal touches of working at the Antlers; Having coworkers who all want to provide great guest experiences, are professional but also down to earth and treat everyone as equals. 

Matthew Parrish joined the Antlers team in September 2015 in guest services. He is a self-starter, and from the beginning was always willing to help out other departments. Sales & Marketing were the primary beneficiary of his enthusiasm. So when the opportunity arose to add him to that team, we jumped. Matthew now works in conference services, group sales and marketing. He gives personal attention to our groups from booking to post-event follow up and is a big part of the reason that groups love us. He is also a tremendous asset to our sales and marketing efforts.

Matthew grew up in southeast Texas. His mom and stepfather have a small ranch where they raise New Zealand Red Deer and kangaroos. He grew up spending spring breaks with his aunt and uncle in Brian Head, Utah where he came to love the mountains. Matthew studied Hospitality Administration in college. That combined with his love of the mountains made Vail the ideal place to begin his career.

In September 2016 Matthew married a Vail local. He met Gina the week after he moved here, started dating and two years later got married. She went to CU Boulder where she studied theater and film. She moved back to Vail after graduation. He feels very lucky to have found Gina. I am sure that feeling is reciprocal. They have lots of fun and she’s his greatest support. In August of 2017 they rescued a Corgi Beagle mixed puppy, named Athena. They love playing outside with her in the snow and cuddling with her on the couch.

Gina and Matthew live on-site in one of the Antlers employee housing units and are very grateful for that opportunity. It helps them save on housing and gives them peace of mind regarding the ever-increasing shortage of workforce housing in the valley. But it is also a benefit to the Antlers. Matthew serves as Manager on Duty overnight about once per week. He is adept at addressing any guest issue that might arise in the middle of the night. He has even been known to act as bellman for a large group that arrived at 3 a.m.

We feel so fortunate to have Matthew as a part of the Antlers team!

 

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!

 

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.