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From the Hot Sands of Saudi to the Snows of Vail

Well, China postponed, so back to the US and one last project for 2008: after 120 degrees in the Saudi desert, snow in Vail is a welcome change. But first a pit stop in Denver with a family whom I have never met before and whom I had had the insensitivity to want to meet on Thanksgiving eve to discuss business. «No, come and stay the night.» With business colleagues like this, who needs friends? I did stay the night, we jam in a meeting over dinner, I tell Kelly her laying of the table was spot-on for the next day’s feast (she was nervous, you see, about a «Butler Emeritus» seeing her handiwork up close); Mike and I chat on the way back to the airport and agree to move forward. See It’s actually very exciting, as The Society coordinates and services the owners of over 5,000 holiday rental villas around the world, and we will be providing those clients who want it, with the invisible, anticipatory service characteristic of the butler.Here is the McFadden family a few days later, celebrating some special news.

The trip to Vail takes almost three hours, starting at about 5,000 ft in Denver and arriving at about 8,500 feet.

The Arrabelle at Vail Square sits right at the bottom of the ski lift and a short way from cross-country trails.

The butlers all dress in what I seem to recall as Swiss ski wear from the Sixties and the hotel is mocked up as a Swiss Ski lodge.

What I love is the fireplace in my suite, the heated bathroom floor, and limitless cups of complementary hot chocolate brought by the butlers. Second to that have been the ready smiles of the butlers, whom I had trained in the summer, and who are as glad to see me as I they. Apparently they have been doing very well over the last half-year since opening, offering superior service the likes of which visitors to Vail are not accustomed. These butlers are actually all ski-aholics, so they indulge in their passion for the slopes when not indulging in their passion for service.

I did crack out my Helle Hanson ski suit ($415 on sale fifteen years ago and worn just 5 times before I moved to Florida) and packed it ever hopeful of snow. Luckily, the cycle of fashion has just come full circle, and my style of suit is once again on the cutting edge. One hard day of skiing and I spend the rest of the week letting the knees recover, so the Helle Hanson adorns the back of the closet once again. It was very useful for the butlers to practice their packing skills, though.

The second round of butlers being trained prove themselves to be as sharp in class as on the slopes, so we have made good progress and, as always, I am reluctant to leave their company, doubly so as their boss, Kathleen, is leaving for California (family reasons). Still, in this hospitality industry, one seems to strike up friendships with wonderful people only to have them move on and…re-appear somewhere else where one can bump into them again! I count myself very fortunate to have met so many frankly capable, decent, upbeat, and earnest-but-fun-loving people. I suppose that’s what it takes to survive in this line of work. And guess where the GM, another gem, is from…Switzerland.

The economic blues are starting to set in, with other hotels in the area experiencing low occupancy (Arrabelle is still fine), but hopefully the snows that arrived the day I did, and the holiday season, will give people hope and cause to blow off the blues. Due to weather-related delays, Continental slips me onto a direct flight on an economy airline direct to Tampa. Wasn’t too comfortable, but it’s sure good to be back home for a few weeks, and arriving the same time as my original planned flight. A long hug for wifey when I stagger out of baggage claim, bags in tow.

And there was peace on earth....

Here’s to an upbeat 2009 for one and all.