George N. Gillett Jr. - Sport Builder - 2005
When George Gillett bought Vail & Beaver Creek Resorts in 1985, a new era for the Colorado ski industry began. Urged by his family to buy the resort, George never lost focus on creating a great family experience and putting a smile on the guest’s face. Through his management of Vail and his love of the sport of skiing, George introduced thousands of people to the freedom of skiing Colorado’s mountains.Applying his successful business sense and focus on customer service, George redefined the ski experience and what it meant to be a world-class resort. With mentors like Pete Seibert and Sarge Brown taking him under their wing, George soon picked up the ski business. You were just as likely to see George riding the chairlifts and greeting guests as you were to catch him in the board room. He was always close to the action and wanted to see first hand what the customer wanted and what would make Vail a success.George launched a massive installation of high-speed detachable chairlifts at Vail, as well as more groomed slopes, kick-starting the growth that would put Vail on the map as America’s number-one ski destination. He also developed centralized reservations for Vail where family could get their lodging, lift tickets, and airfare in customer friendly one stop shopping. The goal was to exceed the guest’s expectations.George also supported major alpine ski events at a time when most ski areas in American declined to host international races. Through his dedication and hard work, Vail hosted the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships, proving to the world that Colorado could put on major international ski races. These international events brought in worldwide media coverage and introduced Vail to a new base of European skiers, fostering Vail’s image as an international ski destination. Thanks to George’s support, Vail once again hosted the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships, making it the only ski area in North America to host two World Alpine Ski Championships.George is still active in the ski community, running Booth Creek Ski Holdings and managing six resorts throughout North America. In 1999, Ski Magazine voted George as one of the “100 Most Influential Skiers of All Time,” an honor few can claim. George Gillett’s innovative thinking and passion for the sport of skiing have left a lasting mark on Colorado’s skiing community.