Vail Resorts CEO: ‘We should have done more’ to prevent staffing shortage last year
In a Q&A, Kirsten Lynch also talks about affordable housing, diversity and adapting to the future
The Denver Post
VAIL — Kirsten Lynch, the chief executive of Vail Resorts, is beginning her second year at the helm of a ski industry behemoth that owns 41 resorts in the U.S, Canada, Australia and Switzerland, including five in Colorado.
The first weeks of her tenure were challenging because of staffing shortages that caused long lift lines and hindered snowmaking efforts before the Christmas holidays, igniting a storm of criticism from angry passholders. In an interview conducted this week at company headquarters in Broomfield, Lynch addressed those and other issues with The Denver Post.
Q. How does it feel to be at the threshold of a new season, to have that first year behind you?
A. In some ways I can’t believe it’s been a year since I was appointed into this role. December and January were challenging. Our company — the entire industry, and our company in particular — experienced some compounding challenges during the holidays, our busiest time. We had low snow leading into Christmas. We had the escalation of a new variant of COVID, Omicron, that impacted our employees with exclusions from working, and we had the global labor shortage.
It had two negative impacts. One was on our employees, the stress and the strain of that. It also had a negative impact on some of our guests. We care deeply about the guest experience and we care deeply about the employee experience. We don’t make anything, we create an experience. When that doesn’t go well, our entire company feels terrible about it, myself most of all.
Part of experiencing that so early in my journey as the leader of this company was to listen intensely and understand what went right and what went wrong. I came out of that period intent on taking action. Creating a guest experience starts with our employees. In March I announced an increase in wages. We took our base wages up to $20 (per hour) and, in some functions up to $21. It was a $175 million investment in wages. In April we announced an investment in affordable housing. [NOTE: The company also announced other employee investments including access to mental health resources, reproductive healthcare and a career development initiative.]
Read more on DenverPost.com.
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