Alterra Mountain Co. has $555 million in ski-area improvements on the books, starting with a gondola at Winter Park and a bigger base restaurant at Steamboat |

Alterra Mountain Co. has $555 million in ski-area improvements on the books, starting with a gondola at Winter Park and a bigger base restaurant at Steamboat

“A different company from Intrawest,” CEO says deep pockets of Crown Family, KSL Capital will let Alterra catch up with long-delayed upgrades

A cowboy races into the first set of slaloms during the 37th annual Cowboy Downhill on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011 at Steamboat Ski Resort.
AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

Alterra Mountain Co. plans to spend more than half a billion dollars on its 12 ski resorts in its first five years as a resort operator, including $130 million in a spending spree this year that includes a new gondola for Winter Park and a restaurant expansion at Steamboat.

The five-year strategy for $555 million in improvements comes as Alterra Mountain Co. peddles its new Ikon Pass in hopes of replicating the success of Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass. Vail Resorts sold 750,000 passes last year, enabling the company to make $150 million in capital improvements at its 11 destination resorts this year.

Alterra just started selling its first Ikon Pass last week. So where’s this money coming from?

That would be the deep pockets of Denver equity fund KSL Capital Partners and the Crown family, which owns Aspen Skiing Co. The two partners joined last year to pay $1.7 billion for Intrawest’s stable of resorts and then bought California’s Mammoth Mountain and Utah’s Deer Valley.

“This is a very well-capitalized company with private investors,” said Alterra’ CEO Rusty Gregory, who spent 40 years working at Mammoth Mountain, starting as a lift operator and ending as an owner and chief executive when the California resort sold last year to Alterra. “We are an operating company, so it’s really recurring earnings we are looking for. Those recurring earnings eventually at some level go back to shareholders, but if you look at the Crown family’s history, they buy and hold assets for a long, long time.”

Lester Crown, the patriarch of the billionaire Crown family, bought Aspen Skiing Co. in 1985. The family also has ownership stakes in General Dynamics, Sara Lee and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the latter of which is leading the consortium of banks handling Alterra Mountain Co.’s roughly $1.2 billion in debt.

Read the full story on The Denver Post website, click here.

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