Fresh snow covers the trees at Steamboat Ski Area Wednesday afternoon as the gondola car makes its way to the top of the mountain.

Larry Pierce/Courtesy

Fresh snow covers the trees at Steamboat Ski Area Wednesday afternoon as the gondola car makes its way to the top of the mountain.

Intrawest, Mammoth acquisitions in line with ski industry strategy

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— Aspen Skiing Co.'s second in command said Wednesday the deal to acquire Mammoth Resorts and Intrawest is a logical extension of a business strategy it has pursued for the past five winters.

Skico Chief Executive Officer David Perry said it's a growing trend in the travel and leisure industry to bundle experiences for people who want to gain new experiences and try new things. Skiing is no different, he said.

"Our guests here at Aspen-Snowmass, we've learned they increasingly like to move around a little bit," Perry said. "They are very loyal to us. They love it here, but they also love to visit other places."

That's what led Skico to take the initiative on the Mountain Collective pass for the 2012-13 season, when four iconic ski resorts teamed on a multi-resort ski pass. That has continued to grow each season, and Skico is taking that concept a step further with acquisitions of ski areas.

"When we look at these acquisitions, we think there is a way to continue on that path, which is providing skiers what they're looking for," Perry said.

Skico made a huge leap into that strategy this week. After announcing Monday it was forming a new entity with a partner to acquire Intrawest Resort Holdings and its six ski areas, Skico announced Wednesday it's buying Mammoth Resorts and its four ski areas in California.

Affiliates of Skico and Denver-based KSL Capital Partners will form a new entity to make the purchases. Both deals will be completed by the end of the third quarter this year.

The acquisition of the publicly traded Intrawest is for $1.5 billion. No price was announced for the acquisition of the privately held Mammoth.

Skico officials said not to expect a shared pass among the new family of resorts for 2017-18. Some passes are already on sale for next season, including the Mountain Collective that Aspen and Mammoth are part of and the M.A.X. pass that includes Intrawest.

Skico and KSL started exploring the two acquisitions at about the same time, according to Perry. He said the purchase of Mammoth Resorts makes good business sense because of its commanding position in the southern California market.

"It's a really great ski area. It's a wonderful community," Perry said. "It also is, basically, the dominant player in the largest destination skier market in the country, if not the world."

The firm that owns Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain added Snow Summit and Bear Mountain in 2014. They combined to log more than 2 million skier visits last season.

To put that into perspective, Aspen Skiing Co.'s four ski areas typically log between 1.4 and 1.5 million skier visits per season.

Perry said Mammoth Resorts draws both day skiers and destination guests, who take overnight trips.

"Their geographic position and their dominance in such a large market was the reason we wanted them to be part of the family."

Skico's familiarity with Mammoth in the Mountain Collective Pass led to the merger. Mammoth joined the pass the second year it was available.

"We really learned that we see eye-to-eye on many things," Perry said. "The different strengths that they bring to the table are complementary to ours."

He said Mammoth and its ski areas are special places with individual character and passionate customers. They also run their businesses very well.

"We got to know them a little better over the last three or four years," Perry said. "So when this opportunity came up, it looked like a good one."

Aspen Skiing Co.'s four ski areas and other assets will continue to be owned separately by the Crown family from the new entity. Affiliates of Skico and KSL will lead the new entity that owns the other ski areas. That entity hasn't been named yet, but some media have labeled it "the Aspen group."

Perry said the name will be determined by the time the deals close in the next 90 to 120 days. All the effort was put into getting the complex deals completed, he said. Details such as the name and a common pass are yet to be worked out.

"There's a lot to do between now and closing," he said.

Skico and its affiliates clearly have the potential to create a pass to rival Vail Resorts' popular Epic Pass. The Epic is good at 13 ski areas that Vail Resorts owns or operates in North America, with additional benefits overseas. The price is $859 for next season.

The Aspen group's family of resorts will include Skico's four mountains, the four of Mammoth, six of Intrawest and KSL's holding of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, California. Intrawest's holdings include Steamboat and Winter Park.

Perry said there are clear advantages of a shared pass. Some of the ski areas in the Aspen group are close to major metropolitan areas and provide opportunities for day skiers.

"They can't get their dream trip all the time, but they need to feed their habit," Perry said.

Now those resorts will be affiliated with destination resorts, such as Aspen-Snowmass, where people want to go for overnight vacations.

It is uncertain at this point if Skico and its sister resorts will remain affiliated with the remaining independent resorts in the Mountain Collective after next season.

While the acquisition of Mammoth Resorts helps Skico achieve one of its goals, it will also help those ski areas continue their maturation. Mammoth Resorts Chairman and CEO Rusty Gregory said joining the new venture is "the next logical chapter in the story of Mammoth Resorts."

"This new platform, built around a collective passion for the mountains and our commitment to the people who visit, work and live there, is exactly what the ski resort business needs," Gregory said in a statement. "I am excited about the future prospects for Mammoth Resorts, our people and this new enterprise."

KSL Capital Partners CEO Eric Resnick said the merged company will provide advantages for Mammoth's customers.

"This transaction will allow the combined company to better serve Mammoth's loyal customers while at the same time exposing these world class resorts to a broader audience," Resnick said. "Mammoth Resorts does so many things well. We are excited to learn from their talented team."

An affiliate of Starwood Capital Group has owned a majority interest in Mammoth Resorts for 12 years, according to the statement. Starwood is a private alternative investment firm with a core focus on global real estate, energy infrastructure and oil and gas.

Starwood Capital made chairlift upgrades and purchased Bear Mountain and Snow Summit to help cement Mammoth Resorts' position in southern California, according to Starwood CEO and Chairman Barry Sternlicht.

"We had greater plans for Mammoth but the Great Recession and then some less favorable weather interfered with our strategic aspirations in a finite lift investment vehicle," Sternlicht said. "We know Aspen and KSL have the experience, commitment and balance sheet to help make our vision a reality."

Mammoth Resorts also owns the Tamarack Lodge and Resort, Mammoth Mountain Inn, Juniper Springs Resort, the Village Lodge, Mammoth Mountain Bike Park, Snow Summit Bike Park, Mammoth Snowmobile Adventures, Sierra Star Golf Course and Bear Mountain Golf Course.

Comments

Scott Wedel 2 weeks ago

Oh, I hate this "Other News" video in which the Sheraton has a steam whistle sound. SB never had an actual steamboat and thus no steamboat whistle. It is a case of falsifying history in pursuit of marketing.

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rhys jones 2 weeks ago

Steamboat had a noon whistle from the mid-'80's-early 90's at least, dating back to before I got here. Coulda been a steamboat. Don't believe the neo-"experts" in search of anything and everything they can criticize.

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Scott Wedel 2 weeks ago

The noon whistle did not sound like a steam whistle. It sounded like an air defense horn since it was an air defense horn.

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rhys jones 2 weeks ago

How do you know what it sounded like?? You weren't even here. Damn troll. Get an acoustics degree, sophisticated equipment, testimony if you can find it, and prove me wrong. No wonder everybody left these forums. Get a life.

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Scott Wedel 1 week, 4 days ago

BTW, I was here when the noon horn would go off so I know what it sounded like.

You are becoming Trumpian in how you tell lies about other people.

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rhys jones 1 week, 4 days ago

And you are an arrogant blowhard pest who is smarter than everybody else -- nobody is ever right, and here's why -- and always gets the last word in -- mainly because people get sick of arguing with your endless twisted logic -- so it's attrition, not victory. You won't overtly offend anybody, so the moderators can't kick you off, and you can ramble at will. You blind yourself so completely, you think people are buying your crap -- when they're not even reading it. Because of the waste of time that would represent. Not everyone is as lifeless as you are -- most of us find other things to do -- especially with you dominating these forums, ad infinitum et nauseum. Too bad these aren't Reality Forums, where we could vote participants off the island: Your tripe would have vanished long ago.

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Jim Kelley 1 week, 4 days ago

Rhys, It was a loud horn. It sounded like an air defense horn. A loud air defense horn. It went off at noon every day. Loud. Like a really loud air defense horn. Super loud. Super duper air defense horn loud. Even some like, super-local folks who were around here WAY back in the eighties would be able to tell you just how air defensey the horn sounded. I wish I had an acoustic degree and some sophisticated equipment so I could confirm for you just how loud and like an air defense horn it was. It was so loud that even some hyper-sensitive troll bait folks would have to agree that it was a friggin' extra loud AIR DEFENSE HORN.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 2 weeks ago

Rhys is exactly right. Scott aka the troll comments on virtually every article. Arrogant and snarky. Anybody else that comments is at risk to Mr. Wedel's criticisms. There is no longer a reason to comment. Eventually the only one commenting will be the wizard of Oz.

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rhys jones 2 weeks ago

He knows to stay away from abortion and politics -- thereby arousing the ire of half his admiring public. So those topics are safe.

Anything else -- strap on your rap and get ready to rumble.

The Best of Steamboat needs a new category: "Bloated Windbag" comes to mind...

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rhys jones 1 week, 3 days ago

Ya know, I worked right across the street from that horn back in the '80's -- and, silly me, I remember it sounding like a steamboat. I mainly took exception to the smug tone of the original comment in this thread.

And with that, I will voluntarily withdraw from this vaunted venue for the foreseeable future. Bye!!

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Russell scott 1 week, 4 days ago

Rhys, you are exactly right. When I read the comments I always skip over Scott W. I didn't use to. I use to get drawn into his nonsense. He's a guy in trouble with the IRS and can't keep his rental property up to code but he is good at belittling others with narsistic self importance. Don't expect him to get over himself. But you Rhys are fun to read and someone whose comments I try not to miss.

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rhys jones 1 week, 4 days ago

Thanks Russell, I'll take that as affirmation, and sorry I shot torpedoes at your school boat. Sometimes I wonder if I'm not the crazy one.

Good word, narcistic(sp?). As an amateur student of psychology -- that being my college minor -- I find the vast array of personalities here fascinating in their variety. Knowing something about sanity, I can claim no such virtue, am just lucky to be within that wider window they don't institutionalize, though at times I think they should. I definitely don't qualify as what society defines as "normal" [ie average, boring...]. There are as many kinds of weird as there are people. Nonetheless, certain descriptors can apply to certain traits or tendencies -- and in addition to narcistic, in the instant case, we may add insecure, possibly neurotic, maybe a touch of Asperger's... at any rate, not somebody you want to tangle with all night in the forums.

Tip to aspiring students: Study the hard sciences (math, chemistry, physics) and leave the humanities alone (communications, sociology, psychology, philosophy, history, art of any kind, politics, the performing arts, even law) if you want security -- you want constants, and people are WEIRD.

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Eric Morris 1 week, 4 days ago

All this consolidation was driven by how everyone noted the excellent SSRC RFP for Howelsen and didn't want to miss out on its piece of that cash cow.

Anecdotal effect: We were thinking of selling condo but now that the ski area has a good owner I think we'll stick it out and see what kind of future multi-passes they offer.

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Russell scott 1 week, 4 days ago

Rhys, please no "sorry" for the School Bond. I was on the School Bond Committee and fought tooth and nail, went door to door, working tirelessly to get it passed. Despite seeing early on that there was little support I had made a commitment to work hard to the very bitter end. After the vote I had no regrets. I would have regrets if I had given up. Given the same circumstances I would do it again. In life you win some and loose many. Ha! My friends who voted against the bond are still my friends. I respect their opinions as I hope they respect mine.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 week, 4 days ago

Russell, never lose your passion. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose but if you go all in you will never regret it. Rhys, nice to see you back in full throat. Always enjoyable. Missed you. Eric, there is typically a OMG what just happened bump after news like Aspen buys Steamboat. Just remember Janet Yellin is still in charge.

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rhys jones 1 week, 4 days ago

Hi Dan -- With the end of ski season I have more time, and pursuing computer pursuits I'm close to my keyboard. Now if I can shake a stalker who says I'm wrong all the time, maybe I'll have more to say.

Janet is the voice of the Rothschilds's, we are still the pawns of the Brits, and Donnie is just the funniest puppet we've had in a while -- like, ever. The Brits don't care if we trash our own country -- our job is to win the world for them. But now we're digressing, thence inviting invasion...

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Scott Wedel 1 week, 4 days ago

On this thread it is Rhys 6 posts and me 3, now 4 posts. Seems that I have been overthrown.

As for being a misinformed "blowhard", that is also a title which also belongs to Rhys. Apparently, he is unable to use Google.

Here is an article of when the noon whistle was removed. It shows a picture of civil defense horns, not a steam whistle. It mentions that it is a civil defense horn. It even discusses that it was considered to be replaced by a steam whistle but that was considered too expensive.

Enjoy your reign as king of posting lies.

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Scott Wedel 1 week, 3 days ago

Apparently, Rhys has trouble with reading comprehension.

"There was some effort - not a big effort - to get the siren changed to a steamboat whistle,"

So "all I got" is a contemporaneous article stating that it would need to be changed in order to sound like a steamboat whistle. That is way more than your rambling speculation that the people at the time were wrong and it did somehow sound like a steam whistle to someone.

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Eric Morris 1 week, 3 days ago

Dan, yep Yellen is still in charge. That means to me that everything (I could consider/afford) is overvalued, besides putting the proceeds in my mattress. With Aspen on board, I'd rather keep a mattress in Steamboat. Though you are right, I may be too optimistic.

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Scott Wedel 1 week, 3 days ago

Eric,

Shortly after Intrawest bought SB was the peak in the local real estate market and it took 9 years to return to those levels. Though, then we were hearing how Intrawest owning SB ski area meant that we were immune from the starting recession and were headed to the next level of resorts.

Normally, I'd say that SB housing prices are too high compared to median income for prices not to come down, but SB seems similar to other Colorado resort towns. Last week Scott Ford sent me some data on those moving to SB and it had zero people moving here earning between $50K and $75K. That we had people moving here for service jobs that pay better than in some other places or with enough income to buy.

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Martha D Young 2 days, 19 hours ago

So what is the anticipated effect that the purchase will have on the ski area, or even on the city?

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Scott Wedel 2 days, 17 hours ago

Martha,

I expect not much of an impact. The purchases look to be more of expanding a vacation network than any vision of increasing the popularity of skiing. I would expect more of an effort by Ski Corps to offer a seamless experience which means more of an effort by Ski Corps to own more of the services used by tourists.

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