‘How do we truly make a difference?’
Johannes Faessler was newly graduated from the University of Denver when he first came to the Sonnenalp Hotel in 1983. His family had, for several generations, been successful hoteliers in Ofterschwang, Germany. His family’s choice to open a hotel in Vail was not whimsical, but rather stemmed from a belief that Vail was a special place on earth and worthy of a long-term investment.
“This was not about coming to Vail and making a quick buck,” Johannes said. “It takes an investment of yourself, and time, and money, but we knew that in 20, 30, or even 40 years that the Sonnenalp would be awesome when it all fell into place.”
It wasn’t long before Johannes met Rosana, who hails from Brazil, and the two were married in 1985. Among the many interests they share is a strong desire to give back to the community.
However, they did not want to simply, “give things away,” as Johannes said. “We were both fully invested in the community and committed to the long-term vision. We wanted to be able to really make a difference.”
In 1997 Rosana led the way to establish the Sonnenalp Foundation. The Foundation has contributed to a host of causes in the community but is best known for its “Casual Classic” cycling event, which raises money and awareness for ECO Trails (since 1996), and for its critical role in establishing (in 2002) and supporting the Sonnenalp Breast Imaging Center at the Shaw Cancer Center in Edwards.
“At that time, in the 1990s, Johannes and I saw that we could truly have an impact in our community by trying to take care of what we saw as very important needs in our community,” Rosana said. “The way this community has embraced these initiatives is truly inspiring, and we are so grateful for the incredible support and cooperation we’ve received from this community in our work.”
“The Sonnenalp Breast Imaging Center is a name that has become synonymous with excellence,” said Dr. Jan Ugale, who was Medical Director for the Sonnenalp Breast Imaging Center from 2002-2020. “Rosana is the reason for that. She is a fireball, and she works extremely hard at the things she believes in.”
“They have a tenacity, an unwavering commitment to put their heads down and get the work done that’s needed,” said Ellie Caryl, who worked closely with the Faessler’s on the Casual Classic and ECO Trails support through her role as former Manager of ECO Trails for Eagle County. “They have continued to support ECO Trails, year after year, and it’s made an incredible impact on helping on the long-term vision of this project.”
A view of the future
When COVID-19 struck, the Faesslers were quick to adapt to the changing situation. Always known as a leader in the local business community, Johannes stepped into a key role on the COVID-19 Community Task Force to help navigate the difficulties posed by the pandemic and communicate with health officials about the intricacies of running a business in those swiftly-changing times.
The COVID-19 Community Task Force is only one example of how the Faessler’s have led the way when it comes to important community issues.
Much like their work on the ECO Trails project, which began in 1996 and is now near to completion, the Faessler’s have steadfastly taken on a variety of issues and held true to the vision of seeing them through to completion.
Environmental stewardship, said Vail Mayor Kim Langmaid, has been yet another example of how the two have provided essential leadership.
“They have been admirable leaders in the sustainable business and destination space,” Langmaid said. “They have also always been actively involved with the Town of Vail, with the community as a whole, and have been champions for local business.”
“Early on, we recognized that the true value of the Vail Valley is the beauty of its natural environment,” Johannes said. “This is something that we have to be highly aware of, and we have to do everything we can to keep it this way now and into the future, even if making some of these adjustments can be difficult at first.”
To make those first difficult adjustments – on any issue – and then to continue to work, to fine-tune, to never give up – these are the attributes that have helped the Faessler’s build what started as a small hotel in 1979 into what is now Sonnenalp Properties Inc., including the Sonnenalp Resort and Spa of Vail, Sonnenalp Property Management, the Bully Ranch restaurant, the Swiss Chalet restaurant, and the Sonnenalp Club in Singletree, all of which are consistently ranked as some of the top properties in the world. Also, the Sonnenalp Hotel in Ofterschwang is doing well and is still managed by Johannes’ brother Michael and his family.
Rosana and Johannes’ success in business is one of many signs of a consistent and lasting dedication to quality, and to the quality of life of those around them. In their receipt of the 2022 Vail Valley Citizens of the Year Award, the community is able to reflect those same ideals, and show them just how valued and remarkable their achievements have been for all.