New & Notable: Service Ace

Vail Village’s new Four Seasons Resort, led by a top-notch general manager, fits in seamlessly with the valley’s ethic of hospitality.

February 1, 2011 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2011 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

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Four Seasons general manager Hans Willimann brings a wealth of experience to Vail Village’s newest luxury property.

It’s brand-new (the hotel hosted its first guests just before Christmas 2010), and it’s impossible to miss at the very gateway to Vail Village. And yet if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear the Four Seasons Resort Vail had been here forever. This seamless fit testifies to more than two years of hard work on the part of the resort and its general manager, Hans Willimann—because while the contemporary western style of the complex integrates the property architecturally with its surroundings, the resort’s most profound connection to Vail lies in its high level of service and the genuine friendliness of the staff.

Willimann, a graduate of the Ecole Hôtelière in Lausanne, Switzerland, comes to Vail after 20 years at the Chicago Four Seasons, where he was affectionately known as the “Mayor of Chicago.” In a total of 30 years at Four Seasons properties, Willimann has achieved a reputation for his attention to detail and dedication to gracious service, having been recognized by the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association as Hotelier of the Year and Ambassador of Hospitality for his achievements and contributions over the past two decades.

But the multilingual, Swiss-born Willimann predictably praises his support staff for the atmosphere of the Four Seasons Resort Vail. “Their enthusiasm for being here and their motivation are rewarding,” he explains, citing the staff’s multicultural provenance as a pillar of the resort’s service ethic. “Our business manager is from the Seychelles via Paris. The resort manager comes from Luxembourg. Another manager is German via Mexico. And I believe service is the same worldwide: you have to anticipate the needs of people and fulfill them before they ask.”

The chair of the Vail marketing district council, Beth Slifer, attests that the Four Seasons Resort is an important addition to Vail Village. “Not only is it beautiful, but the service matches its Four Seasons international brands. And the new GM is a gift to the community.”

For Willimann, that gift revolves around a simple task. “Our primary focus is to take the hassle out of the vacation,” he explains. For example, the resort’s ski concierge facility features custom-fitted, preheated boots in lockers for every guest. It also delivers freshly waxed skis to the base of Vista Bahn lift, where guests are greeted with tips on the best runs of the day. “That gives the guest freedom,” Willimann notes. “Warm boots, waxed skis.”

Other resort amenities include 13 spa treatment rooms, an exercise facility, and an under-5 area and a teen center for families. But it truly is the details that matter: the laundering of wet ski clothing is conveniently charged by the bag, not by the garment, and there’s even a hot water bottle in each bed.

The resort’s food offerings reflect a similar priority on comfort, laced with a cosmopolitan flair. Executive chef Jason Harrison, who came to Vail from the Bellagio in Las Vegas, oversees the resort’s Flame and Fireside Lounge restaurants, which specialize in dishes like short ribs, Colorado lamb stew, and coq au vin.

“We want to serve dishes that people love,” Harrison explains. And what do people love the most? “Our absolute best seller is a 30-ounce bone-in rib eye wagyu steak for two,” he says.

As for Willimann, he hopes to savor life in his new surroundings. “I’m looking forward to living and working here, and to making Four Seasons Resort Vail a vibrant member of this mountain community,” he says. “Vail, for me, is paradise.”

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