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Aron to step down

DUFFY HAYES
summit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk
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VAIL ” With a nod to professional athletes like Michael Jordan and John Elway who have “gone out on top,” Vail Resorts chairman and CEO Adam Aron announced Monday that he’ll be stepping down from the top job at the company.

Aron will resign effective June 28, according to a company press release. The date coincides with Aron’s 10th anniversary working for Vail Resorts.

“I think I’m so proud of what we’ve done, I’m going to go out a winner,” Aron said in an interview Monday.

The 51-year-old Aron stopped short of calling the step a “retirement,” adding, “I’m sure that there are some very exciting things in my future left to do.”

Over his 10-year stint at Vail Resorts, the company grew to four times its original size. In the release announcing his resignation, Aron said, “I am enormously proud of the progress that has been made. In its simplest terms, I have had a great run.”

Aron’s self-described great run is ending just as a number of high- profile, high-yield projects by Vail Resorts are either under way or nearing completion. The company’s Arrabelle at Vail Square project is the jeweled centerpiece of the current expansion. When finished in 2007, the Arrabelle will contain 67 condos and a 36-room luxury hotel. The project is valued at more than $110 million.

Vail Resorts is also finishing the Gore Creek Place townhome project ” a $50 million endeavor with 16 four- and five-bedroom condos, as well as the expansive “Front Door” redevelopment project and a total redesign of the ski area’s Lionshead gondola area.

Aron, though, also reflected fondly on the progress made at the two Summit County ski resorts the company operates ” Breckenridge and Keystone. He particularly noted a decade of progress making Breckenridge “the world class ski resort that the town deserves.”

Aron characterized the company’s investments in Breckenridge over the past decade “a small fortune,” and he checked off a laundry list of improvements made at the resort over his ten years of operating the company: snowmaking on Peak 8, a slew of new high-speed lifts ” including the recent Imperial Express SuperChair, the opening of Peak 7, the building of Ten Mile Station, the renovation of the Great Divide Lodge hotel, the renovation of The Maggie building, and the recent addition of the Skyway Skiway skiback. Aron also noted that skier days jumped from around 1.2 million when Vail Resorts bought Breckenridge in 1997 to more than 1.5 million recorded last year.

Looking ahead, Aron called the proposed Peak 7 redevelopment and gondola project “clearly the next chapter in Breckenridge’s progress.”

Breckenridge Mayor Ernie Blake reflected on their shared progress as well.

“I will miss Adam Aron. He’s been an honest broker with me and with the town of Breckenridge. What he said he will accomplish he has accomplished, and I think he’s been a good friend to the town,” Blake said.

With regard to Keystone, Aron said, “We’ve really solidified Keystone’s place in the Front Range as a resort of choice,” referencing the company’s successful Colorado Pass and Buddy Pass programs that have brought throngs of Denver folks to the High Country in greater numbers.

Over his tenure, more than 80 percent of Keystone’s River Run base area opened, the Keystone Conference Center doubled in size, and the resort opened the River Course at Keystone ” the second world-class golf course at the resort.

Between now and June, Aron will help the company’s board select a replacement, according to Vail Resorts officials. When a successor is named, however, Aron promises to relay the weight and importance that both Breckenridge and Keystone hold in the company on the whole.

“Keystone and Breckenridge are central to Vail Resorts. They’re as important to this company as Heavenly, or Vail, or Beaver Creek, or our hotels,” Aron said. “Vail Resorts without Breckenridge or Keystone wouldn’t be the same company.”

To stress the point, Aron cited lift ticket sales at the two Summit County resorts. Last year, more lift tickets were sold at Keystone and Breckenridge together than at Vail and Beaver Creek combined.

While Aron wistfully looked back on his years at the Vail Resorts helm, and was clearly proud of his many successes, he waxed particularly nostalgic about the end of another era ” this April will be the 10th-straight year that he has played in The Summit Foundation Hockey Classic.

He called April’s upcoming tilt between Vail Resorts employees and a team of folks from competitive resort operator Intrawest “the most important hockey game of his life” and claimed that he “needs to win (it) to go out on a high note.”

Duffy Hayes can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13611, or at dhayes@summitdaily.com


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