Opinion: Vail’s tentacles spreading throughout Tahoe


To the community,

For folks interested in Vail, Heavenly’s parent, as a business organization and employer, I suggest reading the book “Down Hill Slide.”

Vail has a long reach in the ski world and real estate. Presently, Vail is the big toe in the Tahoe basin ski industry controlling Northstar and Heavenly. Also, recently Heavenly bought a vacation home rental business. And Heavenly is spending big money around in the community. Money opens doors and influences decision-making, which isn’t news. Heavenly attempted to get the Sports LTD building out of the hands of the present leaseholder. This time they failed.

Bill Crawford

Bill Crawford

And a large number of us believe Vail has direct access to city government via the city manager’s office because of the city manager’s long association with Vail in Beaver Creek.

So what’s the point? From here it appears the city manager is attempting to grind the city into dust, to a disabled vapor. His mantra is city employees are by and large incapable bureaucrats. His downsizing is crippling public services. He is making sure of that.

So where does this lead? The city will be at the mercy of the private powers that be. They’ll be fiddling and calling the tunes. The citizens at the ballot box will be the losers, if they’re not already.

The name of the game isn’t democracy, by plutocracy.

Thus, the down hill slide is on a slippery slope. And we’re already in the hole.

Bill Crawford, South Lake Tahoe


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Comments (20)
  1. Concerned says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Wow-sounds doom and gloom. Have you been to Vail? If not, go check it out!

  2. Steve says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    It is surprising Vail hasn’t taken advantage of the city’s missteps and scooped up the failed convention center site at huge discount. Astute real estate investors know how to buy low, sell high. And stay clear of bad deals.

    That being said, in my opinion Vail, Colorado is a very classy place.

  3. Where is the turnip truck says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Read “Down Hill Slide” many years ago. It was a hit piece against the ski industry, with only one point of view.
    Ski industry bad. The city manager does appear to be Joe Hatchet, but are there any other short term solutiions?
    Vail has greatly improved Heavenly and the more skier visits to our mountain, the more properous our town.

  4. X LOCAL says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    This City Mgr. has only one plan. Bring Vail the the head of the town and run it.
    Your City services have already been cut to the bone and more cuts are on the way.How many employees lives have already been ruined ? All I see from this O’Rourke is BAD NEWS, He will bring the City to it’s knees and the City Council is letting him get away with it and giving him a free hand in doing it, that way they won’t be blamed!!! But we have news for the Council, they are the one’s in charge and we won’t forget it.
    It’s not good when every Employee and Department Head hates you, it will bite O’Rourke in the A*# and then he will be gone leaving the City in Ruin and in worse shape than it was when he arrived.
    But he will have made over $600,000 plus benefits for his 3 years of service and we will have a ruined City.
    Thank you Mr. O’Rourke, for nothing.

  5. dogwoman says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Tell you what, I’d sure rather have an extremely successful company (Vail) investing in our town than to have a bunch of political wannabe’s trying to control our economy. We’ve seen where THAT’S gotten us. Have you BEEN to Vail? We could learn a few things.
    With regards to Vail having attempted to wrest control of the former Crescent V shopping center, if I recall correctly the current owners STOLE it with the city’s help via emminent domain from the original owner, the old rancher who used to own most of the land there at Stateline. How ethical was THAT?

  6. Boone says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Mr. Crawford – What kind of shape are we in under your and past “local” leadership left us? One things certain, the old faces have left us in ruin. Your opinion is laughable and without any merit. Is the gondola a good thing for our community? Is Heavenly Village an improvement (the only one to hit this town in decades), are the improvements on the hill good for our area? I don’t know what wagon you fell off of but you might want to get that lose marble in your head fixed! Let’s see, take the lead of a very success business or as one person said above, keep listening to the wannabees in this town…

  7. Tahoeadvocate says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Don’t forget the other 800 lb gorilla in the room- Edgewood Properties (aka Park Cattle Co.). They have helped to fund a new Vision for the South Shore which does have some merit but basically enhances their properties. The city wants the center of town to be Ski Run Blvd. The Vision ends with Ski Run on the outskirts of it. The Design Workshop in the TRPA building just finished it and might give you a copy.

  8. Clear Water says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Why waste your time ,money at Vail Heavenly,it’s pass time and the best snow in the worst conditions are found at Kirkwood.

    Heavenly in Ca., and Nevada not Colorado.

    Plus they got trains ,large cities with great airports that can get you there.
    Unlike So.shore where you wonder where in the hell is the bus and crop dusters?

    Nothing happening here but more range wars,bad city politics,bunch back stabbers taking us all for bad ride with our money.

  9. dogwoman says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Amtrak goes to Vail? Reno Airport is way closer to Tahoe and Heavenly than any major airport in Colorado is to Vail. Better bus service from Sac. airport might be good, but service to Reno is pretty great. And you’re right, we are not the Colorado Rockies. . .but we DO have a great big beautiful LAKE!

  10. Chuck Halladay says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Thank you Mr Crawford for maintaining the drum beat: Vail spells “Fail” for Tahoe.

    Tell you what: If you prefer a fascist corporate overlord to a cast of local “characters”, you should be very happy with the way things are going.

    Did you see Blaise Carrig’s new little venture? Seems that he’s put his own little version of the W.T.O. together to continue to “save” the South Shore. I can hardly wait: “The Fail on Tahoe Ice Skating Center”. A great “the gondola’s on Wind(&/or $)Hold” alternative, (but only for those who can afford the private facility’s cutting edge prices).Read ‘Locals can’t afford to be here’.

    “Vail has greatly improved Heavenly…”
    Hahaahahahhaha. By failing to build any kind of Half Pipe for over 5 years now? Or could you mean improvements like replacing North Bowl Chair? Or having Ski Patrol screen Beginners before they flail down what used to be a premier mogul run, “The Face”? You mean that type of improvement??

    Or “improvements” like running the mountain on wind power? Remember that lie? Or other “improvements” like having our City’s Redevelopment revenues given away in back room deals? And for a crumby little economy grade gondola that regularly strands thousands on the hill in winds as low as 25mph. You think that our then Mayor could’ve demanded something like Squaw’s Funitel (sp?), given that the total amount of sales tax revenue that Vail has cheated our City out of has to have run well into the millions by now. (They pay no taxes to the City for ticket and other sales at the base of the gondola). And what an “improvement” -a pure joy and money maker, too- that parking structure’s been for everyone involved.

    Other “improvements” that Vail brings are pay wages so little that their full time, seasonal staff make enough to meet the County’s allowance for food stamps, intentionally! Please have a look -or perhaps some sniffing is more your speed: Vail does nothing for our community. Sierra at Tahoe did more for our kids in one day, (season passes for a division winning STHS team), than Vail has done outright for our entire community in a year. Or perhaps this amounts to more than “Fail” has done the entire decade they’ve been here…but that maybe just me – telling you another “improvement”.

    I’d gladly take any former Heavenly owner over “Fail”. That would be a real “improvement”.

    You’ve heard me say this very stuff for years now, and neither you, nor “Fail”, have yet to make an informed, serious or intelligent comment or reply.

    “…an extremely successful company…” low geared to political takeovers in your town.

    Thanks again, Mr Crawford. Your courage, and that of others who seek to inform, (sans the sarcasm), are held in high regard.

  11. dogwoman says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Really? You’d rather pay over $800 for a season pass as we did under ASC?
    Vail just hired Sean White to hang out and design stuff over at Northstar so if you’re looking for a half pipe, the Heavenly Pass is also good there.
    And I don’t think Sierra pays its seasonal (or full time) employees any more than Heavenly does. And it’s a whole lot easier commute from town.

  12. dumbfounded says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Yet another bonb-throwing, whining opinion piece from one of the most recognizable political failures in our town. And, Mr. Crawford continues to feed at the taxpayer’s trough as well. As far as Vail putting their “tentacles” into the city and having Mr. O’Rourke destroy services, I would like to know how that process serves Vail. Although I do not like to see city employees lose their jobs, there are certainly some ” … by and large incapable bureaucrats” in our city. There is one less with Mr. Crawford gone. Oh yes, one more thing, ASC was absolutely incompetent and no one with any knowledge of the ski business would welcome them back.

  13. the conservation robot says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Well at least they pay their fair share of taxes on the…
    oh wait. Nevermind.

  14. Carl Ribaudo says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    The gondola was built by ASC not Vail, cost $23M.

  15. dogwoman says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Clearly, Vail is WAY smarter than ASC. Does ASC even exist still? Vail let them go through all the hassle, all the expense, then bought it for a pittance when ASC started tanking. Very smart.

  16. Skibum says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Asc came into town and did an IPO and their shares were $17, they raised $50 mil and bought The Canyons along with The Grand Summit and Heavenly. After they signed the sweetheart deal of paying no retail tax on ticket sales and getting the developmental rights for $2 mil for the Park Avenue Project they went belly up. Their stock was worthless and they sold the rights to The Marriot for $7 mil. Left us hanging with a $5 mil debt on the project when we should have gotten the rights back and we could have sold them and paid for the garage. Guess who was on the council when all this happened? I wrote about all this when it happened years ago and we just can’t seem to learn.

  17. dogwoman says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    They owned a bunch of Steamboat Springs too. Haven’t been there in a few years now.
    That IS the problem with politicians getting all up into business. They don’t have the smarts, nor the smartest lawyers. Those guys are in private industry. Every time a city tries its hand at redevelopment/land theft, they end up screwing small business, citizens, while corporations always win in the end. We need to STOP politicians from stealing land via redevelopment!

  18. lou pierini says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Sales tax on lift tickets would solve the city’s budget.

  19. Parker says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    Vail clearly wants to own the town! Their executives, at least when Blaise was there, would throw fits if they came into a business and saw advertising for Sierra or Kirkwood! If the business replied, “But Sierra or K-wood help us out. Will Heavenly?” Heavenly execs would proclaim a very loud & clear, “No”. But being that they were associated with Vail, they’ve felt they’ve had the right to dictate exclusive rights over our town. Like they can in Vail!

    While our town clearly would benefit being a little more like Vail (cleaner, sharper-looking, better roads) to everyone who says we should be like Vail, I say, “Move there then!”. I like our more down to Earth community!

    And to everyone that praises Vail the town, it’s nice but not perfect! (Log onto to the SF Chronicle website: Do a search for Vail and see a story they did last Winter.)

    And to those who talk about what they’ve done with Heavenly, they’ve improved it, yes! But from a very lower bar! And Heavenly is better, but it’s not great. And how long has Vail had it?

    But if Vail can’t own our town, they clearly want to try to dominate it! South Lake Tahoe, with all its flaws, is better for being a diverse town! Not a corporate one!!

  20. Not Born on the Bayou says - Posted: September 1, 2011

    I like the way SLT is developing, with the renewed aesthetics of Heavenly, Marriott, and Edgewood. I love to visit now, and I’m not a rich NIMBY with a second house overlooking Zephyr Cove or Montgomery Estates.

    As a visitor, I used to avoid South Lake intentionally 15-20 years ago before these developments came to the fore – my image of it was of a flea bag motel and smoky casino hellhole in a beautiful setting. Instead, I would go to north Tahoe where the setting seemed more serene and I could relax and enjoy the surroundings.

    I hope the Ski Run to Edgewood corridor does continue to develop in an appealing way. I’d love to see more bike trails, nice plazas and walkways, great restaurants, access to the lakefront, and I’d use a paid cross country ski area at the new Van Sickle bi-state park if they put one there. In short, I’d drop some coin locally and help keep the place buzzing.

    The whole town does not need to be nor can be solely an isolated premium destination resort like Vail or Aspen. Part of its charm is that it’s a real, working town. But tourism is its life blood, like it or not, and it had better keep up with what visitors want, at least in part of the town.

    I have rarely seen so much bitching as in some of the guest posts and comment boards of this site and other SLT newspaper sites. It does not present a good image of the town. Yes, there have been problems, and they shouldn’t be ignored. But get over the past, and work on building a future with the incredible natural material and good local people that you have there to work with together.

    Figure out how to make the most of your incredible natural setting, and make us want to come up there. Vail, Edgewood and the like need to be part of what makes this happen, but it’s going to take a lot of ingenuity, hard work, and the right attitude from the residents too.

    Look at the guys from Anderson bike rentals for example. They always are friendly and make me glad to be there and renting bikes from them. They remember that you rented from them before and greet you heartily. They throw in 15 extra minutes for the same price you paid for an hour just for the hell of it. Why not emulate them – you’ll find people and visitors get more and more excited about the town when the locals do too.

    I can’t wait until my next trip up there, but I hope not to run into the negative bomb throwers on this board while I’m there. We intentionally wait to buy our gas and provisions there in town when we come up, to try to support the locals, even though it’s more expensive. Figure out more ways to make us want to do that, and then take some actions to make it happen.

    You can do worse than visiting Colorado resorts and observing first hand what they do that makes people want to come back. It’s not just the snow.