Resort sell-off in works

Skiing company officials say they are 'encouraged'

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— American Skiing Company officials said Friday they are satisfied with progress being made toward the sale of the Steamboat Ski Area and continue to predict a closing before the end of the year.

However, they declined to elaborate on prospective buyers who have inquired about Steamboat.

"Our plans to sell Steamboat are proceeding well," American Skiing President and CEO B.J. Fair said. "We are encouraged by the amount and quality of interest we are receiving in Steamboat."

Asked if any of the prospective buyers come from outside the ski resort industry, Fair would say only, "we've seen a broad spectrum of interest."

Fair spoke during a conference call in which American Skiing executives discussed the company's third-quarter earnings report. ASC reported a quarterly profit of $7.2 million, and skier visits overall at ASC's nine resorts were up during the third quarter. However, earnings per share were down significantly for the period from Feb. 1 through April 30 when compared to the same period a year earlier.

Earnings per share were 19 cents, well below what stock analysts had predicted. Third-quarter earnings last year were $21.5 million or 42 cents a share. ASC Chief Financial Officer Mark Miller said those earnings per share would have been closer to 30 cents had it not been for one-time charges against ASC's balance sheet including charges of $2.1 million attributed to corporate restructuring, $3.6 million related to the failed merger with hotel management company MeriStar Hotels and Resorts, and $800,000 in miscellaneous asset related losses.

Company officials said Friday they intend to aggressively sell quartershare interests in the Steamboat Grand Hotel in spite of the fact that it, along with the ski area, is for sale. Chief Operating Officer Hernan Martinez said, for some prospective Steamboat buyers, the availability of unsold quartershares in the Steamboat Grand "could be perceived as a very good opportunity to get value."

However, Martinez said sales at the Steamboat Grand are too significant a part of the company's plan to restructure itself and get out from under debt to simply let them stagnate while waiting for a sale to move forward.

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