Vail Resorts adds Housing for 875 Employees

Vail Resorts (VR) has planned four new investments in employee housing at Whistler Blackcomb, Park City Mountain, Utah, Vail Mountain, Colo., and Okemo Mountain Resort, Vermont.

The new housing will in total provide affordable housing options to more than 875 VR employees, an increase of more than 10 percent across the company’s resorts.

The announcement comes as part of VR’s strategic focus on investing in the employee experience, which includes an average wage increase of nearly 30 percent and a new $20 per hour minimum wage for the 2022-23 season.

“As our mountain communities have grown, affordable housing has become increasingly more difficult for our employees to access—addressing this must be a top priority for our company and our communities,” said Vail Resorts CEO Kirsten Lynch. “These projects reflect progress on our commitment, and we remain focused on aggressively pursuing more opportunities in our resort communities.”

At Park City Mountain Resort, VR has entered into a five-year lease with Columbus Pacific Development to provide an additional 441 employees with access to affordable housing in the new Canyons Village Employee Housing Development. The development is part of a public-private partnership between the Canyons Village Management Association, Columbus Pacific, and Summit County, Utah.

At Whistler Blackcomb, VR is working alongside the Resort Municipality of Whistler to pursue the new Glacier 8 employee housing development. Glacier 8 will provide an additional 240 employees with access to affordable housing. Located on Blackcomb Mountain, with easy access to Blackcomb and Whistler lifts, the housing investment will accompany a $1 million CAD (roughly $794,000) commitment by VR to enhance transit service to the site. This development is up for a final town council vote this spring. If approved, it will proceed directly to the permitting and RFP process. Depending on permit issuance, construction is expected to begin by spring of 2023.

Vail Mountain will add affordable housing for 165 employees, as construction moves forward on a 23-acre parcel VR owns in East Vail. Total investment in the project is around $17 million, and it is expected to be complete by December 2023.

The development is not without controversy. The town’s planning and environmental commission approved the project by a narrow margin in 2019 after a study found that a bighorn sheep herd uses the parcel as a winter range.

VR has said the project, which will use 5.4 acres of the parcel that abut I-70, will help address the critical shortage of affordable housing in the Town of Vail. While approval for development was upheld by a district court in 2020 and VR has dedicated the remainder of the parcel to natural preservation, detractors on the town council have indicated to local outlets that they are still pursuing avenues to stop the development.

Lastly, a $1 million investment at Okemo Mountain Resort will provide long-term housing for more than 30 employees. VR is under contract to purchase an existing property in Ludlow, Vt., less than one mile from the resort, that will be turned into affordable employee housing. The purchase is expected to close this April, but it is subject to due diligence.

In addition to these four forthcoming projects, VR also invested in incremental affordable housing at Stevens Pass, Wash., earlier this season. The Stevens Pass project will provide housing for 24 employees.

Additionally, Vail Resorts is investing more than $300 million into its on-mountain guest experience ahead of the 2022/23 season. 21 new lifts are planned across 14 resorts to reduce wait times. The company’s largest single-year capital investment also includes terrain and restaurant expansions at Keystone.

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