BROOMFIELD, COLO.—For the fifth consecutive time, Forbes has named Vail Resorts to its “America’s Best Large Employers” list—one of 25 Travel & Leisure companies selected from an independent survey of 50,000 employees across various industries. Being included among the country’s 500 most reputable large employers is a particularly meaningful accolade for Vail Resorts this year, as the company navigates the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 while remaining rooted in its values.
“This has certainly been the most challenging year our company has ever faced, and operating safely and successfully would not have been possible without the unwavering dedication of our incredible employees,” said Lynanne Kunkel, Chief Human Resources Officer at Vail Resorts. “The one thing that we are most proud of is our ongoing commitment to what matters most: our core values, which we each hold ourselves accountable to in every decision we make. Through this exceptional year, we have remained rooted in our values—above all else, our commitment to keeping each other and our guests safe.”
Vail Resorts has seven core values, which includes Be Safe (be committed to the safety and wellness of employees and guests), Be Inclusive (to welcome everyone to the company, resorts and communities), and Do Good (preserve natural environments and contribute to the success of local communities).
Safety has always been at the forefront of Vail Resorts’ mission and amid the COVID-19 pandemic it has become more important than ever. Heading into the season, the company reimagined the resort experience across its family of properties—knowing it takes the compassion, care, and personal responsibility of everyone to create a safe mountain experience.
New workplace policies and an ongoing employee campaign, Be Safe Together, are focused on creating a safe environment for employees from the season’s start to finish—in turn, keeping guests and communities safe as well. At the start of the season, all employees received extensive COVID-19 protocol training from local leadership and Health & Safety, and employees undergo daily health screenings. In addition to face covering and physical distancing requirements, Vail Resorts implemented a reservation system for the 2020/21 season to allow for physical distancing for employee and guest safety.
Last June, Vail Resorts’ CEO sent an email to employees on the systemic racism facing the Black community, acknowledging that “we are part of the problem” and that this issue is not removed from the company and ski industry. Both Vail Resorts and the larger industry have incredibly low representation from people of color and there are clear elements of ski and snowboard culture that are not inviting to newcomers. Vail Resorts is focused on fostering a more inclusive company culture to create an environment where all current and future employees feel welcome.
The company has established a new value—Be Inclusive: Welcome everyone to the company, resorts and communities—include all races, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities and other differences. To support this value, Vail Resorts launched a new leadership development program: Leading Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and recently put out a powerful podcast where BIPOC employees shared their experiences as well as opportunities for (and failures of) the company and sport.
“What makes our resorts so incredible is where they are located and the passionate people who live there,” said Kunkel. “Two of our absolute priorities are the health and wellbeing of our employees and mountain communities. We’re proud that through our corporate social responsibility platform, EpicPromise, we’ve been able provide substantial emergency relief and COVID-19 relief grants for employees in need of support.”
Through Vail Resorts’ EpicPromise Employee Foundation, established in 2016, employees can apply for grants to respond to unpredictable setbacks. During the 2019/20 season, $1.8 million was granted to employees for emergency relief and COVID-19 relief, as well as educational scholarships. Additionally, through EpicPromise, $18.3 million in cash and in-kind contributions was donated to 309 organizations, supporting local youth, critical need and environmental sustainability.
Vail Resorts is also focused on helping ensure mental health care is destigmatized, easily accessible and affordable. As mountain towns contend with the ongoing effects of the pandemic, there has been an increase in mental health challenges amplified by limited access to care. Through the company’s Epic Wellness program, employees, their dependents and household members receive no-cost access to six counseling sessions, preferred providers/therapists and a wide variety of mental health tools. These services are available virtually.
Vail Resorts was also recently named one of “America’s Best Employers for Women” and “America’s Best Employers for Diversity” by Forbes.