Prioritizing mental health: Vail Resorts’ Epic Wellness team focuses on a community approach to whole health

Heather Jarvis
For the Summit Daily News
As Vail Resorts has grown over the last decade, so has its Epic Wellness program
Katie Young/Keystone Ski Resort

When we think about staying healthy, we work on eating right, exercise and other preventative care. However, when it comes to mental health, we sometimes ignore it until it becomes a problem.

Vail Resorts’ Epic Wellness program seeks to change that mentality, prioritizing mental health by using easily obtainable practices that bring our mental wellbeing to the forefront of our everyday lives.

“We are working to get away from the classic idea that mental health is something you have or don’t have,” said Alexis Ramirez, a licensed professional counselor and senior manager with Epic Wellness. “We can be proactive and take steps along the way for our mental health, the same way we are proactive in thriving in our physical space as well.”

Vail Resorts created the Epic Wellness program 10 years ago and it has been growing ever since. Dr. Corey Levy, the Epic Wellness director and a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked in mental health care for over 20 years, helped incorporate the program from the beginning.

“We want to help people engage in more behavioral habits and interactions that are healthy,” he said. “And then, if and when they want to obtain support, we want to make that as easy as possible.”

As Vail Resorts has grown over the last decade, so has its Epic Wellness program. The company offers six no-cost and confidential therapy sessions per year to all employees, their dependents and household members. This resource and all others through the program are provided to all employees on day one of employment.

A year and half ago, Vail Resorts doubled their financial investment in employee wellness, broadening clinical offerings to provide a continuum of care approach. Epic Wellness ensures employees have access to providers who live and work within the same community, Ramirez highlighted, as they understand the stressors of mountain-town living. Employees can now also engage in preventive resources such as access to a mindfulness app that can be used daily, a virtual peer support program, text and chat-based therapy, and professional wellness coaching.

“We have a lot of resources that can be used on a daily basis that are less formal (than a clinical setting) and can help employees thrive,” Ramirez said.

Using a community psychology-based approach, the company and its partners work to facilitate a culture where mental health is destigmatized, talked about regularly, and employees are supporting each other, their families and friends in their mental wellbeing. And if someone needs help, they want to make sure they’re given the support they need.

“We want to empower coworkers to engage and care for one another in proactive ways,” Levy said. “We like to say, ‘connection is prevention.’ If people know you care for them and you express that, it helps the overall community do well. We try to make mental health really engageable and not a scary thing.”

Epic Wellness works to ensure employees are aware these benefits are also available for their dependents and household members — such as roommates.

“We recognize that employees live in systems, and in order to do well we all have to have access to resources,” Ramirez said. “We want to make systemic change, not only in employees but within the community.”

The community has rallied behind the program. In Summit County, Epic Wellness partners with local providers, Building Hope, the Katz Amsterdam Foundation and Vail Resorts’ Epic Promise program. The program also exists in all of the mountain towns where Vail Resorts operates.

“We want people to be comfortable talking about mental health and the resources, to talk about it like physical health, and to hear their coworker, leader or neighbor also speak to that.”

Alexis Ramirez, Epic Wellness senior manager

For Levy and Ramirez, making sure employees know the resources available to them is the No. 1 priority. They work to communicate with employees year-round. Leaders at Keystone and Breckenridge resorts are stepping up to talk openly about self-care and organize wellness events throughout the year. Over the course of January, which Vail Resorts recognizes as “Epic Wellness Month,” resorts in Keystone and Breckenridge hosted 15 wellness events that connected with nearly 1,000 employees.

“We want to continuously let employees know there is a dedicated team of in-house mental health professionals driven to empower their self-care,” said Levy. “We have resources in place we want people connected with.”

“There are so many people in our mountains that care about this and are dedicated to our efforts,” Ramirez stressed. “We want people to be comfortable talking about mental health and the resources, to talk about it like physical health, and to hear their coworker, leader or neighbor also speak to that.”

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