Aspen Skiing Acquires Steamboat, Winter Park Owners For $1.5 Billion

Aspen Skiing Company LLC and KSL Capital Partners LLC have agreed to buy Intrawest Resorts Holdings Inc., owners of six ski resorts across North America.

Aspen Skiing Acquires Steamboat, Winter Park Owners For $1.5 Billion
Near the top of Steamboat; photos by Sean McCoy

Included in those resorts are Steamboat Springs and Winter Park in Colorado, and Stratton Mountain in Vermont. Aspen Skiing will also pick up Tremblant and Blue Mountain in Canada, and Snowshoe Ski Area in West Virginia.

While not a condition to the merger, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, the parent company of Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows resort and an affiliate of KSL, will also become part of the entity at closing, but continue to operate under its current management.

High on Winter Park

The announcement comes as many skiers decide which season passes to buy for the coming season. Resorts offer significant season pass discounts for early buyers.

For the full 2017-18 winter season, each Intrawest resort will continue to honor the resort’s existing pass products that are currently on sale, including the Rocky Mountain Super Pass + and the M.A.X. Pass.

Copper Mountain, which is included in the Rocky Mountain Super Pass, is not part of the acquisition.

Ski Resort Consolidation

The merger of Aspen Ski Company’s four resorts – Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk – with the six mountains of Intrawest follows other huge mergers.

It sets up competition between two large corporations that manage vast tracts of ski terrain and commercial real estate. Vail Resorts and Aspen Skiing Company now both own at least 10 resorts.

Vail Resorts is an enormous organization, with 13 ski areas. It owns namesake Vail, as well as Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar, Mount Brighton, Park City, Kirkwood, and Afton Alps in the United States. It also owns Perisher in Australia.

Vail purchased Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia — in many measures the largest ski area in North America — for $1.04 billion in August. It added Park City, Utah, to its roster in 2014. It linked Park City with nearby Canyons Resort to form the largest ski resort in the United States in 2015.

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Multi-Resort Passes

For those who ski a lot, a season pass is the way to go. In Colorado, Vail’s Epic Pass and the Rocky Mountain Super Pass are two top options. They allow season-long skiing at multiple mountains for between about $500 and $900. Given that a single day pass costs well over $100, serious skiers find good value in these passes.

Aspen season passes, in contrast, cost around $2,000 for a similar pass that is only valid at its four resorts. It’s unclear how the company plans to manage season passes after the 2017-18 season.

“We are excited to work with Aspen and KSL. Our new partners bring additional financial resources and a shared passion for the mountains and our mountain communities,” said Thomas Marano, Intrawest’s chief executive officer, in a release.

“Both Aspen and KSL are committed to helping Intrawest accelerate our plans to bring more value to our guests, more opportunities for our employees and more investment into our local communities.”

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Managing Editor Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in Denver, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

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