Whistler Blackcomb operator discusses reopening plan in email to employees

Vail Resorts aims to start up lifts in late June or early July, CEO says

Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz updated the company's roughly 15,000 employees on reopening plans in a May 21 email.

Emphasizing that safety and caution when considering how best to ramp up operations after shutting down in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Katz said that the target start date is in late June or early July.

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"It's hard to put any firm dates around anything right now, given how new information and guidance comes out every day," he wrote. "But our hope is to have our lifts turning, at all of our resorts, by late June or early July and be welcoming people in all our lodging and retail stores by that time as well.

"We intend to take our time to reopen, and we acknowledge that we may be slower to open than others. Our goal is not to win the race to reopen, it's to look back one day with great pride in our track record on safety."

As previously announced, spring skiing will not be offered at Whistler Blackcomb, Heavenly or Breckenridge, and Katz reiterated that safely starting summer operations took precedence.

"As much as I would love to get a few last turns this season, we have made the decision not to reopen this spring," wrote Katz. "While it's possible that certain local restrictions might be lifted for ski resorts in June, the more we looked at it, the more we did not think it was the right timing to reopen.

"We know there would be tremendous enthusiasm to get back on snow one last time in North America. But we also know that enthusiasm would carry its own impacts, on us and on others—something we think will be more manageable for everybody in July, at which point we want those resorts fully focused on their new approach to summer operations."

Katz added that given the complex nature of Vail Resorts' operations with businesses in not only lift operations, restaurants and retail, but also wedding venues, fly fishing and transportation, not all of their subsidiaries will open at the same time. He added that there will be multitudes of opinions regarding the company's reopening plans, and the company as a whole will need to develop and implement new procedures and policies in order to ensure employees and visitors can trust that the company is operating in a safe manner.

"Some will think we are moving too slowly; others will think we are moving too fast. Some will say it must be about money, others will say we are being too cautious or too cavalier," he wrote. "We can't eliminate that chatter and it's always important to listen to the feedback, but we also need our own view.

"Trust is earned when you showcase that the health and wellbeing of your guests and employees are your top priority and you are willing to be patient to earn it."

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