Vail Taking Over? Commits To Whistler Purchase

Vail Resorts announced this morning it has entered into an agreement to acquire Canadian ski resort Whistler-Blackcomb, the largest ski area in North America.

whistler blackcomb vail
Whistler-Blackcomb

The proposed $1.04 billion acquisition will further grow the already-enormous brand to 12 resorts in North America under the Vail banner. Beyond Whistler-Blackcomb, Vail bought Wilmot Mountain ski resort in Wisconsin earlier this year, among other recent acquisitions.

Whistler-Blackcomb is in many measures the largest ski area in North America. Found north of Vancouver, British Columbia, the combined ski areas of Whistler and Blackcomb cover 8,171 skiable acres with a vertical drop of more than 5,000 feet. The resort sees more than 2 million visitors each year.

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

As North America’s largest resort operator, it reported $1.4 billion in revenue in the 2015 fiscal year.

Vail plans to include Whistler in its season pass for the 2017-2018 season. For the 2016-17 winter season, Whistler-Blackcomb will continue to honor the resort’s existing season pass products.

“Whistler-Blackcomb is one of the most iconic mountain resorts in the world with an incredible history, passionate employees and a strong community. With our combined experience and expertise, together we will build upon the guest experience at Whistler-Blackcomb while preserving the unique brand and character of the resort as an iconic Canadian destination for guests around the world.” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.

Vail-ization Of Ski Industry?

Vail noted that, upon completion of this transaction, it is “committed to continuing Whistler-Blackcomb’s success and building on its strengths, including further investment in the resort and the community.”

Vail has a history of expansion, having acquired Park City, Utah, last year. It installed a connector chairlift between Park City and nearby Canyons Resort as a first order of business.

“Vail Resorts will invest substantially in Whistler-Blackcomb’s mountain infrastructure and growth plans, including continuing to build community and stakeholder support for the recently announced Renaissance project, a transformational investment which will diversify the local tourism economy; provide new four-season, weather-independent activities; and elevate Whistler-Blackcomb’s core skiing, mountain biking and sightseeing experiences for decades to come,” a press release stated.

Further, the company notes it will support the current agreements with local First Nations, maintain principally local Canadian leadership with day-to-day operations residing at the resort, and retain the vast majority of current Whistler-Blackcomb employees.

The deal is expected to be finalized this autumn.

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Editor-in-Chief 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 GearJunkie’s Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

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