It came as a genuine surprise on August 10th when Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz announced a new CEO will be taking his place on November 1st. His replacement will be Kirsten Lynch, the current Chief Marketing Officer of the Corporation. Last week, Bloomberg Businessweek did a profile and interview with Kirsten Lynch to discuss the upcoming challenges with this season.
Raised around Chicago, Kirsten Lynch began skiing at the age of six at Wilmot Mountain (now part of Vail Resorts portfolio). Her family would take vacations to Breckenridge, and would eventually move to the town of Vail. Her career has specialized in marketing, with most of her work being in marketing departments. Since joining Vail, she has been a major part of Vail’s marketing operations and strategy, along with being the pioneer of Vail’s EpicMix app. Kirsten says a big key in the future will be to use their data to track wait times at lifts in order to figure out which replacements are needed in coming seasons.
Browsing through her LinkedIn profile, her experience is impressive and diversified. She worked as the VP of Marketing at Kraft Foods for thirteen years, before being the Chief Marketing Officer of PepsiCo Quaker Division for two years. She then joined Vail Resorts in 2011, where she has been the EVP and Chief Marketing Officer before her upcoming promotion. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Stitch Fix.
In spite of the immense growth under Rob Katz’s tenure, he left many challenges for the incoming CEO. Crowds have been an issue at their resorts for years. Vail has decided to spend big this and next offseason to address these issues, but based on their large portfolio, many major lift projects are needed to fully manage their crowd issues. Epic Pass sales are also up 42% compared to last year, and with expected staffing shortages throughout the industry this year, it’s not going to be a be significant challenge for Vail Resorts to keep their customer base satisfied. Then there’s exceptionally high stock price, which is a big money maker for the corporation. The question is how much more can it grow in that regard, seeing that their market cap is already the largest in the industry, and new ski resort acquisitions won’t excite stockholders as much as before. Many tough tasks await Kirsten Lynch, but based on her experience, she’s clearly up for the job.