Ferry Steps Down as Vail Chamber Director Following ‘Riff-raff’ Comment

Kaye Ferry, the outspoken and sometimes controversial executive director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association, has resigned in the wake of comments to Colorado Confidential last week in which she labeled Denver day skiers “Front Range riff-raff.”

Ferry denied making the comment, although she stood by her concerns about the potential parking, traffic and skier-safety impacts of Vail Resorts’ new $579 Epic Pass. The story was picked up by mainstream media such as the Denver Post and caused a flurry of negative comments on Web sites around the state. Colorado Confidential stands by the accuracy of Ferry’s quotes.

The Vail Town Council late last week collectively sent a letter to board members of the Vail Chamber suggesting Ferry be asked to resign. On Saturday, Susie Tjossem, executive director of the Vail-based Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame and also a Vail Chamber board member, sent a letter to town council members announcing Ferry’s resignation.

“Today, the Vail Chamber and Business Association accepted the resignation of our Executive Director, Kaye Ferry,” Tjossem wrote. “For now, as we reorganize and redefine our mission and business plan the Vail Chamber Board of Directors has asked me to fill in as their interim Executive Director, which I will do on a part-time basis …”

Ferry and Tjossem did not immediately return phone calls requesting comment.

Vail Mayor Dick Cleveland said he was the only one who signed the letter to the Vail Chamber board members but added that it was a unanimous decision by the seven town council members. Cleveland declined further comment.

“It’s over, and I’m not going to beat a dead horse,” Cleveland said.

Ferry told the Denver Post and Vail Daily she was not resigning as a result of the “riff-raff” comments but instead was stepping down for personal reasons after the death of several friends in recent months.

Steven Kaufman, one of the owners of the Tap Room bar and restaurant in Vail Village, said the new Epic Pass is a good thing if it results in more people coming to town, no matter where they’re from, and he’s glad the negative publicity will subside with Ferry’s resignation.

“With (Ferry) stepping down, the story should disappear,” Kaufman said. “Half the time she has great ideas but she doesn’t know how to articulate them in a way that the two parties can move forward in a positive way … anything out of Kaye’s mouth, people just roll their eyes.”

Ski resorts need a large volume of visitors in order to sustain the number of businesses in town, Kaufman said, and the discounted season passes accomplish that goal. Stores and restaurants need to adjust their business plans according to the changing market.

“I’ve been really frustrated with the merchant association,” Kaufman said of the Vail Chamber, which the Tap Room does not belong to. “The goal should be at all times to get as many people to this town as possible.”

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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