Rob Katz’s dining boltholes

The chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts likes to make deals over sushi in Lake Tahoe and caipirinhas in São Paulo

Rob Katz in Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colorado
Rob Katz in Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colorado | Image: Terry A Ratzlaff

Much of my role involves acquisition – a process that usually takes place over a series of meals. Building up a relationship in this way fosters creativity and ultimately leads to a quicker resolution.

For a quick breakfast meeting near our headquarters, Snooze – in Boulder, Colorado – is perfect. I’ve had many casual yet fruitful discussions over the cinnamon-roll pancakes and scrambled egg-stuffed burritos. You always have to wait for a table, as they don’t take reservations, but it’s worth it.

I don’t find lunch meetings that effective; dinners allow for a much more leisurely conversation. By far my favourite dining spot in Boulder is Frasca Food & Wine, which was started by two partners from Californian restaurant The French Laundry. My favourite dishes include the frico caldo – a latke with cheese that reminds me of my New York roots – and the homemade pasta with truffle butter and fresh white truffle shavings, which is decadent and delicious. I have held our board dinners here every quarter for the past eight years; the food and the atmosphere never fail to impress.

But my business meetings are never confined to fine dining establishments. One of our acquisitions – the Canyons Resort in Utah – was finalised at the East Side Kosher Deli in Denver. This negotiation was particularly laborious and it was over a simple meal of pastrami sandwiches that we brought the long discussions to a successful conclusion.

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We have resorts across the world, so I travel frequently. I often meet with bankers and investors in New York, where Gabriel’s Italian restaurant is my longtime favourite: the space is crisp but not overly fancy, and the risotto of the day is always excellent – the shrimp and asparagus one I had recently stands out. The very simply grilled ahi tuna is also fantastic.

In California, we purchased the Northstar ski area, in Lake Tahoe, from Booth Creek Resort Properties, and many of our discussions were held at Mikuni, an outstanding sushi spot at the base of the mountain that has an excellent selection of nigiri, including yellowtail, salmon and red snapper. This acquisition was relatively quick and straightforward: we were impressed by the resort’s growth, so we moved quickly to add it to our portfolio. The purchase of Whistler, in British Columbia, however, only came about after a year of conversations. Many of our best talks with its COO, Dave Brownlee, took place at the Cactus Club Café in Vancouver. It sits right on beautiful Coal Harbour and the steelhead and prawn ceviche is outstanding.

In Australia, we own a ski resort called Perisher, which is about a five-hour drive from Sydney. We work hard on building our relationships there, as Aussies tend to be intrepid travellers and love to come to the US to ski. One of the best places for meetings is Cafe Sydney, overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The views are incredible – as is the Humpty Doo barramundi, a local fish served with cherry tomatoes and creamed potatoes.

Our US resorts are also increasingly popular with Brazilian families, so I have travelled to São Paulo to meet with our best clients and high-end travel agents. One of my favourite places is A Figueira Rabaiyat, a beautiful restaurant that’s built around a massive fig tree. The grilled Brazilian sweetwater fish is delicious, as are the enormous strip steaks – accompanied, of course, by a caipirinha or two. 

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