Vail Resorts to buy Crested Butte, three other resorts |

Vail Resorts to buy Crested Butte, three other resorts

The Epic Pass will be good at Crested Butte and VR’s other new acquisitions next season

A skier takes advantage of the huge amounts of powder while skiing at Crested Butte ski area on January 11, 2017 in Crested Butte.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Days before the release of its next earnings report, Vail Resorts has announced it intends to buy four more ski resorts over the summer, including Okemo Mountain in Vermont, Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire, Stevens Pass in Washington and Crested Butte here in Colorado.

According to a Monday announcement, the company has entered into an agreement to buy the Okemo, Sunapee and Crested Butte resorts’ parent company, Triple Peaks, from the Mueller family for $82 million, pending any adjustments before closing.

News of the sale was met with mixed reactions in Crested Butte, as some people felt optimistic the sale could mean more skier traffic, stronger marketing campaigns and even more options for Epic Pass holders. Others worried about what it could mean for the family-owned resort and character of the town.

Crested Butte opened in 1961 and has passed through three families since, including the Muellers, who added it to their lineup of family-owned resorts in 2004.

Per the agreement, Triple Peaks will pay $155 million at closing to pay off the leases that all three resorts have with Ski Resort Holdings, an affiliate of Oz Real Estate, with cash from Vail Resorts, which already owns the Breckenridge and Keystone ski resorts in Summit County.

In a separate sale also announced Monday, Vail Resorts detailed its plans to buy Stevens Pass Resort in Washington for $67 million from Ski Resort Holdings.

Both sales are subject to certain conditions, including regulatory approvals.

“Together, the acquisitions of Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Crested Butte and Stevens Pass will significantly enhance the Vail Resorts’ network of resort experiences, adding even more variety and choice for all of our pass holders and guests,” said Rob Katz, chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts, in a prepared statement.

After the purchases, the Epic Pass products will include unlimited and unrestricted access to all four resorts.

Additionally, Vail Resorts plans to invest $35 million over the next two years at the four resorts, according to the company, while ongoing, annual capital expenditures are expected to increase by $7 million with the additions.

Operations at the four resorts for the remainder of the 2018 summer season will continue unchanged, as will future winter seasonal hiring.

Gary Huresky is a Realtor and member of the Crested Butte/Mount Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors who said he’s looking forward to Vail Resorts’ presence in the area.

“There’s mixed emotions around town,” Huresky noted. “But in my opinion, it’s a welcome endeavor.”

Huresky explained that Crested Butte’s ski resort has needed on-mountain improvements for some time now, and he added that Vail Resorts’ marketing muscle could help bring more people to the area.

“We’ll see what happens with the transition … but we’re a ski town; let’s get folks in here with experience and capital,” he said.

There’s also hopes the sale could boost numbers at the Gunnison County Airport, and Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce Director Ashley UpChurch said the group believes the move will be positive for the business community.

For those who plan on skiing or riding with an Epic Pass next year, it could mean good news for them, too.

Tom Foley, senior vice president of business intelligence at Inntopia, a market-research firm and a longtime analyst of the resort industry, said expanding the reach of the Epic Pass has been a key part of Vail Resorts’ strategy for some time now.

“It’s guaranteed revenue in an industry that some see as having a shrinking weather window,” he explained.

Beyond that, Foley sees Monday’s announcement as evidence of another one Vail Resorts’ strategy, specifically there’s been a shift in the kinds of resorts the company is acquiring. With the exception of the Whistler Blackcomb acquisition, Vail Resorts has moved from buying bigger resorts to more “Main Street” ski areas, Foley said. Places like Stowe, Vermont, and even Park City, Utah, have a different look and feel than Vail, Beaver Creek or Keystone, Foley explained.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller contributed to this report.

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