Vail Resorts now has a female CEO, Kirsten Lynch. After 15 years, Rob Katz has stepped into a new role as Exec Chairperson of Vail’s Board, making way for Lynch to take the helm at Vail – the resort conglomerate that she joined in 2011, she was previously Chief Marketing Officer. I was personally excited about a female leader at Vail, thinking she’d bring personality, passion and a quest for the best individual resort performance to the curated list of 4 dozen top ski resorts in North America.
Lynch is the highest ranking woman in the ski industry. Vail Resorts’ board is now balanced, with five female and five male board members, according to VT Ski & Ride.
Kirsten Lynch claimed to be a passionate skier when taking the helm, but her background was all about rising up through the ranks of Pepsi Co, Kraft Foods and Ford Motor Co., before she launched into the ski biz. And so far, there hasn’t been much notable warm and fuzzy lady’s touch o her operating style. It seems all about revenue and reporting profits to shareholders, more so than bringing quality to passholders.
Vail CEO’s salary? Kirsten Lunch is making $6.2 million, with 83% of her pay as incentive base. So more pass sales, more money in her pocket. Are there any quality components to these incentives shareholders have created? Or is it purely revenue based? Is there a factor for skier experience, because Vail’s complaint desk has been brimming of late over resort crowding, huge lift lines, poor food quality with increased prices, extremely inflated day ticket pricing ($290 a day at Vail!), subpar grooming and snowmaking at certain Vail Resorts, homogenization of Vail’s ski resorts, the list goes on.
Lynch led the charge at Vail Resorts’ to drive revenue through a data-driven approach. She built the company’s analytics and database team, and brought user-ex technology like the Epic Mix, to focus on a season pass push since joining in 2011, the Epic Pass started in 2008. Under Lynch’s direction, Vail Resorts pass revenue has grown from about 500,000 passes sold to 2.4 million. Lynch was part of a surprising decision to lower pass prices for the 2022 season, going instead for volume. Yes, she’s a numbers gal! We’ve watched maximized sales of the EPIC Pass, and many of us have experienced epic crowds?
Vail Resorts now manages 42+ ski resorts, but at its core – its now more of a data and marketing company than a recreation portfolio. Its the Amazon of the ski biz. Think of how Vail has acquired the names,credit card numbers, and behavioral patterns of more than 2.3 mill Epic Pass-purchasers.
Kirsten Lynch also sits on the Board of Directors for Stitch Fix (SFIX), a publicly-traded eComm fashion company that uses data-driven personalization.
Lynch said “It is an honor to lead Vail Resorts as CEO and build upon Rob’s legacy of re-imagining the mountain experience. I am passionate about this Company, the leadership culture we have built and our 55,000 employees who make Vail Resorts the industry leader. Looking forward, I am excited about the incredible growth opportunities for Vail Resorts.”
But does growth mean quality for the skier and rider? You be the judge.