Two of Vail Resorts’ core values are ‘serving others’ and ‘do good.’ It’s more than lip service with the EpicPromise program. EpicPromise is a broad goal for the company and its employees: it runs the gamut from volunteering to an environmental promise, educational assistance to emergency funding in the communities where it operates, from Vail to Michigan, California to the East Coast.
Volunteering can come in the form of one gigantic day of giving back as hundreds did on September 15 at Maloit Park in Minturn. Employees and their families spruced up the school. There’s EpicPromise Week, perhaps a weeklong build day at Habitat for Humanity when departments take over the volunteer schedule and build homes. EpicPromise Connect has volunteers working at all sorts of community programs in Eagle County.
“There were 2,100 employees last year, we’re on track this year to have 2,500. It’s a huge impact, and we do it at all our resorts,” says Katie Waller, community communications manager.
Then there’s EP40, where an employee receives pay, volunteering where their passion leads them—Nepal, Honduras, Mexico and beyond. Kenneth Howell, a 10-year veteran with the company, had a life changing experience in Nepal, where he was a team leader of a group of 10 international volunteers, aiding in recovery efforts after the 2015 earthquake devastated that country. Being the team leader “was one of the most challenging and rewarding leadership opportunities I have had in my life,” he says.
Howell helped rebuild the two schools and aided in other various recovery efforts for more than two weeks in a small village about 90 miles southeast of Kathmandu. Getting there took more than four hours on bumpy, winding roads. “The highlight was re-opening and grading the last two miles of the village’s access road, which had cut the village off from deliveries for four to five years,” Howell says, clearly still affected by his time in this remote village, more than three years later.
CLOSER TO HOME
At each resort volunteer efforts are led locally. Clint Huber, director of finance for Beaver Creek and his family look forward to that day of volunteering all year long. The first time he volunteered with his daughter made a huge impact on them both—and on the trails they helped create.
“It felt very meaningful and it’s something we prioritize every year,” Huber says. “It’s a family event. We are immersed in this culture that we pitch in and it’s fun. We are donating our time and efforts to something won’t benefit just us.”
Huber adds the fact that his children see the giving back and know that doing good is part of the company culture is paramount.
“You make a visible difference and you connect with coworkers and families outside of work,” he says. His daughter looks forward to the day with the same enthusiasm as getting ready for a birthday party, he jokes. But it’s this companywide commitment that makes him proud to be a Vail Resorts’ employee.
EpicPromise is as deep as it is wide: employees make a difference through all the programs, which are Commitment to Zero for the environment, leading to zero emissions by 2030; the Foundation and Community Giving. Waller’s quick to note that employees have a real say in what they do and why they do it.
“That’s the most important part. It’s not successful if there’s a hammer coming down. The employees make it their own, that’s what makes it matter,” she explains. “They are the experts; they live there they know what ’s going on. That perspective is so important. It brings so much value to table. In general, all employees love EpicPromise. They take it on and own it.”
The EpicPromise Foundation fills emergency gaps immediately. Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz first funded it but now employees donate to the fund. Many employees have funds taken from their checks each pay period, knowing that although they are giving today, they may be on the receiving end sooner than later. Jen Law, director of Human Resources for Vail, sees the good the Foundation does first hand. She was on the EpicPromise emergency relief grant committee where employees apply for assistance for emergency relief, it might be money for an airplane ticket to an unexpected funeral, it might be to help with medical bills. The committee meets monthly but can do a quick 24-hour turnaround when there is an emergency.
When Vail Resorts helps an employee, it frees up funds from other community organizations to help within the overall giving, Law says. “What really resonates with me, in particular with the Foundation, we are able to help our own employees, which should take pressure off community organizations,” she says. “To
have some extra assistance gives people a piece of mind.”
The Foundation also helps employees continue their education taking a class or training related to their company role, or perhaps something completely unrelated, says Waller. Employees’ children reap educational benefits as well: The Scholar’s Program gives scholarships to children of Vail Resorts employees continuing their post-secondary education.
It’s hard to tell what’s the best part of these programs: the giving back or the fact that employees, spouses and children make changes in their communities.
“It is truly inspiring to be supported by the company, to take the time to follow my dreams of international service and visiting Nepal,” Howell says