Alterra to Acquire Crystal Mountain


Washington State’s largest ski resort will soon join the Alterra Mountain Company family of resorts.  The big news comes just a year and a half after John Kircher bought out the mountain from his family’s company, Boyne Resorts, which has owned Crystal since 1997.  The resort operates one of the most modern lift fleets in the country in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, less than two hours from Seattle.  Upon closing, Crystal Mountain Resort will join the Ikon Pass, giving Evergreen State passholders access to the two largest ski resorts in the region.  Boyne’s Summit at Snoqualmie signed on just last week offering 5-7 days and access at Crystal will be unlimited with no blackout dates on both the full Ikon and Ikon Base passes.  Alterra’s passes now include 39 mountains with a combined 468 lifts across the US and Canada plus partner resorts in Australia and Japan.  The third major player in the Washington Cascades, Stevens Pass, sold to Vail Resorts for $67 million earlier this year and joined the competing Epic Pass, which also includes nearby Whistler Blackcomb.

“With the addition of Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington, we are able to expand our reach into the Pacific Northwest and offer our guests incredible experiences in the Cascade Mountains, while also giving Crystal Mountain Resort skiers and riders the opportunity to explore all the other premier destinations on the Ikon Pass,” said Rusty Gregory, Chief Executive Officer at Alterra. “Crystal Mountain is Washington’s premier resort and has been a favorite year-round destination for those in the greater Seattle-Tacoma area for years, and we are excited to include it in the Alterra Mountain Company family.”  Crystal’s sale price was not disclosed and the deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

Like others before him, Mr. Kircher was probably made an offer he couldn’t refuse.  “It has always been my goal to ensure Crystal Mountain Resort be taken the farthest in the shortest amount of time in order to keep Crystal at the top of Northwest skiing,” he said in a statement. “Alterra Mountain Company is able to offer a depth of experience and resources, as well as inclusion on the Ikon Pass with its outstanding destinations throughout the world. The mountain sports business has changed more in the last year than I have seen it change in my entire 40-year career, and I am excited to see what lays ahead.”

Despite seven out of ten lifts being added or replaced in the last twenty years, Crystal’s master plan envisions more.  The proposed Kelly’s Gap Express would give direct access to the upper mountain from the lower parking lots and open up new runs below Green Valley.  A second new lift on the other side of the access road would open up terrain in Bullion Basin.  A second gondola could also link the base plaza with Campbell Basin.  Crystal’s three oldest lifts – Discovery, Gold Hills and Rainier Express (Washington’s first detachable chairlift) – could also be replaced by Alterra, which has committed to spending more than $550 million at its resorts over the next five years.

24 thoughts on “Alterra to Acquire Crystal Mountain

  1. jaytrem September 6, 2018 / 11:06 am

    Nice pass map. Just a note on the Peaks Pass, they’re also valid at…

    Valid at: Boston Mills, Brandywine, Alpine Valley, and Mad River Mountain, Ohio; Paoli Peaks, IN; Hidden Valley & Snow Creek, MO.

    Just need to pick up a free day ticket each day. Surely at least 1 person has taken advantage of this offer over the years???


    • Peter Landsman September 6, 2018 / 3:54 pm

      Thanks, I’ve added those to the map. Makes sense that they would be on it but aren’t advertised.


  2. JBB September 6, 2018 / 11:56 am

    Once the deal is closed we will know what the closing price was. I imagine it was significantly over, maybe double, the 40 million Kircher payed in 2017. Maybe this means a new round of lifts for 2019.


    • Peter Landsman September 6, 2018 / 12:01 pm

      I don’t think we will ever know because both are private companies. On that aspect, Alterra can’t go public soon enough.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thomas Jett September 6, 2018 / 12:06 pm

        I don’t think that Alterra will go public soon. I recall Rusty saying that they wanted to keep the company close to the vest. Remember, this was formed as a partnership between Aspen and KSL, which are both private.

        Additionally, I don’t think that we’ll see any new lifts at Crystal for 2019. They’re already installing a D6C at Mammoth, a D4C at Solitude, and the Squawlpine gondola. That’s already a heavier load than what was put in this year, which was two D4Cs and a much smaller D8G.


        • Peter Landsman September 6, 2018 / 12:22 pm

          I’m going to guess Alterra buys at least six lifts in 2019. It was four this year and then they bought two more resorts. Crystal is sitting in great shape but places like Winter Park and June need lift investments big time. We get to hear Vail’s 2019 plans in three months but the timing of Alterra is less predictable.


      • Thomas Jett September 6, 2018 / 1:17 pm

        I guess that Deer Valley did get their own lift, but they made a deal to be a bit more independent with their investments. I don’t know what they’re going to do with Winter Park, but I’m sure that June won’t get anything. Rusty said that a J1 upgrade was contingent on them finding groundwater for snow-making. That hasn’t happened.


      • Mike B September 6, 2018 / 2:45 pm

        Agree with Peter here. I would definitely take the over on 4 new lifts assuming anything resembling a “normal” winter. As he points out Alterra is bigger now than it was when investment plans for the current off-season were announced, so there is more cash flow and resorts to work with. As importantly IMO, that Squawlpine gondola (which is far and away the most expensive investment on the potential list for 2018) was already in the financing plans for the independent Squawlpine – that cash is already set aside and ready to go upon receipt of regulatory approvals. So the “new money” for the remaining 3 on that list is actually pretty small relative to the consolidated cash flow of the current entity. I’d frankly be shocked if there were any less than 6 new lifts across Alterra for 2019-2020.


      • Collin September 6, 2018 / 2:49 pm

        With Crystal and Solitude being added as unlimited on both Ikon Pass variants there are only 2 resorts that aren’t unlimited on both passes. I expect that to change for next year for a few reasons. Steamboat not being unlimited on the base pass was leftover from the RMSP days when it was unlimited at Copper and WP but not at Steamboat. Steamboat previously charged around 900 dollars if not more for a pass and you had the option to upgrade with the Max Pass add on. With the RMSP and Max Pass gone, and Crested Butte having gone Epic, Steamboat’s pass price at 300 dollars more than their competitors sticks out like a sore thumb.

        For Stratton, back when the destination access details were announced, it was before their most direct competitor Okemo went Epic. Stratton and two of their competitors Killington and Okemo charged around 900 dollars for a pass. Mount Snow’s passes were significantly cheaper at 600 dollars for the unlimited Peak Pass, but that didn’t get you any western terrain, so Alterra didn’t bother lowering the price to their levels. Now that Okemo has been bought by Vail, it went unlimited on both the Epic and Epic Local passes with no blackout dates for the Epic Local, and you get access at several western ski resorts. Now Stratton’s pass doesn’t seem like such a good deal.

        While adding days at the New England Boyne resorts was easy enough to do, switching a resort to unlimited is a much bigger deal as the Ikon Pass becomes THE season pass for that resort. If they made Stratton unlimited on the Ikon Base now, the people who bought the more expensive pass would’ve felt like they got hosed since they would’ve paid 300 dollars more than they had to. Alterra would’ve likely had to refund them the difference to keep them happy. If they just wait and make the change on next year’s pass, they’ll avoid that whole mess.


      • foodculturepeople September 6, 2018 / 3:43 pm

        The booming demographics of the puget sound region and the unique capacity constrains each ski area face point towards growth. Both Stevens, Crystal, and Alpental already have approved Master plans. I imagine Vail is getting ready for Grace lakes/Northern exposure pod expansions at Stevens–plus a garage/new parking capacity. Crystal is also approved for Kellys Gap/Bullion basin pods but parking capacity would probably need to be expanded concurently (new lots/garage are approved). Realignment of Discovery/Gold hills and phase 2 and 3 of snow making are other investments Alterra could make w/o addressing parking

        All in all, seems like a loss for Boyne. They ended up losing crystal and yet gaining snoqualmie pass in the last couple years….

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Andrew September 6, 2018 / 4:18 pm

    It’s official, I dislike this Alterra Company. Here I was thinking that I was going to ski one of the last places not on a mega pass. Guess we we’re wrong on that one.


    • Collin September 6, 2018 / 4:55 pm

      Crystal was on the Max Pass (also a mega pass) and Alterra initially didn’t add them. Is it any surprise that it eventually got added to one of the remaining ones?


  4. jaytrem September 6, 2018 / 5:40 pm

    Looks like Brighton is missing on the map. Never realized the Midwest Peaks areas were in such a nice line. May just have to road trip that someday.


  5. Cameron Halmrast September 6, 2018 / 6:13 pm

    Makes me wonder if Alterra will swoop in a buy Sugar Bowl or Sierra at Tahoe after this big purchase.


    • D howe September 6, 2018 / 6:45 pm

      Or perhaps snowbird since the recent death of Ian Cumming. Another hole in each empire is Oregon which features a growing market and a couple of big, well run, family-owned resorts on Mt Hood. Vail resorts lacks a SoCal resort that would drive epic sales among that huge population base.


      • jaytrem September 6, 2018 / 7:45 pm

        Time for Mt. High to cash out?


  6. Peter Landsman September 7, 2018 / 4:53 pm

    REI has the backstory:

    -John Kircher gave up 35 percent of Boyne for 100 percent of Crystal in 2017 after 10 years of trying.

    -“My plan was to own this mountain long-term, to the end of my career and keep it as a family business. But that changed with Vail getting involved in Stevens Pass. The Epic and Ikon passes have become much more of a factor in the business than I ever imagined. The companies that offer these multi-resort offerings are at a major advantage. If you own a large-to-midsize ski area that’s not on a collective pass, that’s a problem.”

    -He started talking to Alterra within days of the Vail-Stevens announcement in June.

    -“Alterra has the capital to keep Crystal growing. They’ll be able to build out the master plan quite a bit faster than we can,” says John.

    -John, Kim and Andrew Kircher will leave their posts when the deal closes September 30th.


  7. Billy Thayer September 7, 2018 / 6:44 pm

    Do you think Alterra or Vail will buy Jay peak? one of them is probably going to. Also, When do you think the sale would go through?


    • alex September 7, 2018 / 8:38 pm

      I would say no on Alterra as I think they are really focused on areas closer to large metro areas and Jay is a little far out there.


      • A.G. September 10, 2018 / 10:32 am

        The 19th largest metro in North America, Montreal with 4.1 million residents is only an hour and 50 minute drive away from Jay Peak. Alterra’s already got Tremblant, adding Jay would really lock in Montreal’s skiers to Ikon.


  8. JBB October 2, 2018 / 5:49 pm

    Alterra Mountain co closes on crystal mountain sale, Oct, 1st.


  9. FormerCastMember April 24, 2019 / 11:33 pm

    I thought with the first IKON deadline coming earlier this week that Crystal would have announced some sort of capital improvements for next year but alas, still radio silence. Has anyone heard anything?


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