Vail to Acquire Peak Resorts for $264 Million

Vail Resorts has agreed to purchase Peak Resorts, the publicly-traded parent company of 17 ski resorts in the northeast and midwest.  The deal will more than double the number of mountains Vail operates and expand markets such as New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. for the Epic Pass.  Mountains to be acquired include Mt. Snow in Vermont, Hunter Mountain in New York and Attitash in New Hampshire.  Combined, Peak Resorts operates 109 aerial lifts in seven states.  Vail will be up to 37 mountains in three countries with 437 lifts upon closing.

Peak itself closed on a $76 million purchase of Snow Time, Inc. less than eight months ago, yet the merger and acquisition action continues. “We are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to add such a powerful network of ski areas to our Company,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts in an early morning announcement. “Peak Resorts’ ski areas in the Northeast are a perfect complement to our existing resorts and together will provide a very compelling offering to our guests in New York and Boston. With this acquisition, we are also able to make a much stronger connection to guests in critical cities in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest and build on the success we have already seen with our strategy in Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit.”  The deal must still be approved by Peak’s shareholders, which are being offered $11.00 per share.  When the deal closes, Epic Pass holders will receive unlimited, unrestricted access to all 17 resorts.

IMG_3944
The flagship Bluebird Express at Mt. Snow will now truly be a sister lift to Sunburst Six at Okemo.

Vail plans to spend approximately $15 million for one-time capital improvements over the first two years and an ongoing $10 million per year to support the Peak properties.  Vail’s EBITDA is expected to increase by $60 million annually with the new additions.  The transaction is expected to close in the fall.

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44 thoughts on “Vail to Acquire Peak Resorts for $264 Million

  1. Todd Arnold July 22, 2019 / 7:14 am

    As someone who skis all 4 of the ski areas that are in Ohio that peak owned this is horrible. Peak already ran all of the resorts atrociously. Vail is only going to make things worse, but I hope otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Russ Fox July 22, 2019 / 7:54 am

      If Peak did a horrible job, why would Vail be worse? Last year Vail bought my home ski area, Crested Butte, and things have already improved. Sounds like you have nothing to lose.

      Like

      • V12Tommy July 22, 2019 / 2:51 pm

        But Crested Butte was awesome because it was the anti-Vail. I live in Vail, and while I love my town, I think Vail Resorts is awful and go out of my way to patronize non-VR businesses in town. I’m glad I got to ski CB before they had a chance to ruin it.

        Like

        • Donald Reif July 22, 2019 / 4:47 pm

          How have they “ruined” CBMR?

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Andrew July 22, 2019 / 8:56 am

    With the amount of debt that Peak was carrying, they either needed to sell to a much larger, better capitalized buyer or find a way to extract more revenue from the resorts to service the debt. For Hunter, I’m thrilled that Vail is taking over (very preferable to the late ASC deferred maintenance debt service future.)

    And hopefully Vail will just spend the money to replace the Attitash Summit triple

    Liked by 1 person

  3. skitheeast July 22, 2019 / 9:23 am

    This is one way for Vail to cement their footprint in the east (and now midwest). I view this as a mixed bag for resort investment. On the one hand, Peak was very good at investing in their “top tier” resorts that helped their bottom line (Mount Snow, Hunter) and those resorts will now be classified as feeder resorts for Vail and receive fewer investments. On the other hand, resorts that were “lower tier” for Peak (Attitash, Wildcat) will now be boosted as feeder resorts for Vail and should receive more upgrades. Vail itself has been mixed about upgrading lifts at its own resorts and ones it has acquired. While Vail, Beaver Creek, and Northstar operate modern lift systems, Heavenly, Kirkwood, and Keystone are in serious need of investment.

    I hope this makes Vail introduce an east coast Epic Pass like they have for Tahoe. It’s cheaper and will please the Peak pass holders who are used to a cheaper season ticket.

    Like

    • Collin Parsons July 22, 2019 / 10:01 am

      I agree with this for the most part. I think at Mount Snow, the biggest investments are already done. They need to replace Sunbrook, expand snowmaking pipe, and maybe replace one of the North Face triples and that’s about it. Hunter is sitting pretty right now, so I don’t think they’ll get much other than just staying up to date on maintenance.

      I think they will finally upgrade Summit at Attitash.

      Like

  4. powderforever July 22, 2019 / 9:56 am

    When vail came to buy Wilmot ski Resort in Wisconsin near me they removed 4 lifts and added 3 fixed grip quads 2 carpets and 2 new high speed ropetows

    Like

    • skitheeast July 22, 2019 / 10:24 am

      With Mad River Mountain instead of Mad River Glen and Mount Brighton instead of Brighton Resort, Vail should acquire Big Squaw in Maine, Big Powderhorn in Michigan, Crystal Mountain in Michigan, and Magic Mountain in either Idaho or Vermont to complete the set.

      Like

  5. New England Chairlifts & Skiing July 22, 2019 / 10:17 am

    Vail is just taking over the world. At this rate, it seem s like it won’t be long before Vail owns every ski area in the country! I know that won’t happen, but it just seems that way how vail is growing.

    Like

    • Peter Landsman July 22, 2019 / 10:40 am

      No question this is big but keep in mind there are approximately 650 resorts in the United States and Canada. Vail will operate 34 of them when this is done. Alterra is at 15.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Robb Juliano July 22, 2019 / 10:26 am

    Huge news! Thanks!!!

    Like

  7. Kaden K July 22, 2019 / 11:54 am

    R.I.P Mount Snow bubble chair!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donald Reif July 22, 2019 / 12:16 pm

      The bubbles on Bluebird will stay, at least for now. After all, Vail Resorts hasn’t gotten rid of the bubbles on Orange Bubble either.

      Like

    • Collin Parsons July 22, 2019 / 5:30 pm

      They’re not going to just get rid of the bubble just for the sake of getting rid of them. Sunburst and Bluebird are extremely popular lifts to the point that some people (outside of the lift community) come to the resorts just to ride them. If anything, Vail might see the value in bubble chairs after seeing how popular they are at the acquired resorts, and then build some of their own.

      Like

    • Gordon July 22, 2019 / 6:06 pm

      I don’t think Vail will retire the bubbles any time soon as they have a bunch of them now through mergers and acquisitions…Canyons, Okemo, Mt. Snow. Maybe when the bubbles get all scratched and you can no longer see through them they will ditch them like they did at Vail.

      Like

      • Ryan July 22, 2019 / 11:54 pm

        Why are people so worried about the silly bubble chairs going away.

        Like

        • John July 24, 2019 / 12:33 pm

          No idea, but as I’m working on one right now I can tell you that they’re an integral part of the carrier and can’t just be removed offhand.

          Like

  8. Ryan July 22, 2019 / 2:26 pm

    Aquire the little ski hills at bargain basement prices now, upgrade the lift infrastructure at them later. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see lift upgrades for 5+ years. Also, don’t be surprised if this all comes back to bite Vail big time in 5+ years. growing too quickly has almost always resulted in major issues. Even when the $$$ is available and loans don’t have to be taken out. Business 101.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. V12Tommy July 22, 2019 / 2:54 pm

    The Death Star grows ever larger. :(

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ryan Murphy July 22, 2019 / 3:22 pm

    I think this is brilliant for Vail though. That many areas, though most are smaller, for that price should alter ticket sales substantially. That also puts a lot of pressure on Alterra to make changes in New England in particular.

    Like

    • Gordon July 22, 2019 / 6:26 pm

      It sure does put the on the pressure. As a small NH resort weekend skier who likes to take a ski vacation out west every year, I can’t wait for a Vail or Alterra to come in and pick up some of the smaller ski areas located along New Hampshire’s RT. 93 ski corridor.

      Like

  11. che guevara July 22, 2019 / 3:48 pm

    I’m surprised Vail Resorts hasn’t made a play for the Southern California market. Both to collect revenue from the resorts there but also to feed their Tahoe and Utah resorts. So Cal has hundreds of thousands of skiers and boarders that trend younger, disposable income and one or two local resorts with recent vintage infrastructure, water rights and are independently owned (e.g., Snow Valley & Mtn High). This seems like leaving money on the table although I’m sure they’ve looked into it. Portland, OR and Calgary are two other apparent holes in their empire.

    Like

    • Frank July 22, 2019 / 5:37 pm

      Agreed. I’m from Portland, and neither Vail, nor Ikon, nor Mountain Collective service our market, not even Mt Bachelor. Ikon added Crystal, but that is still quite a drive.

      Like

      • David July 22, 2019 / 5:39 pm

        It’s frustrating that Bachelor is not on Ikon. Copper, Eldora, and Killington are!

        Like

      • che guevara July 22, 2019 / 6:34 pm

        Both Timberline and Meadows are family owned and/or have long-term local ownership. They probably don’t want to sell at any price.

        Like

        • Frank Fery July 22, 2019 / 6:46 pm

          You are right they won’t sell. But couldn’t they join at least one of the pass programs, like Sun Valley and Snowbasin are with Vail, and previously MC? Maybe there is no financial incentive, as both are overcapacity on weekends anyway. But they could align with weekday options when they are relatively empty. I decided to forgo a local pass this year and spend my money on Collective.

          Like

        • skitheeast July 22, 2019 / 11:00 pm

          Everything is for sale for the right price. Deer Valley wasn’t for sale until Alterra gave them an offer they just couldn’t refuse. Both Vail and Alterra have an internal value of what both of those mountains are worth to them and those numbers just happen to be below what those mountains value themselves at. However, these values all change over time and I would not be surprised if one of them is bought sooner rather than later.

          Like

    • David July 22, 2019 / 5:38 pm

      True, even though So Cal has a lot of snow problems it’s not much different from say a hill in Ohio.

      Like

      • che guevara July 22, 2019 / 6:31 pm

        As long as they have water rights, they have snow. I don’t think mountain high is sitting on a big pile of water but I think snow valley is in a better position. They always seem to operate at some level. The two big players in So Cal are owned by Alterra so they’re not an option. Snow Valley is owned by some manufacturer in the midwest so it seems like a stretch that Vail couldn’t acquire it. Either VR doesn’t care about the market or the owners of snow valley have a strong attachment to the area. Or perhaps there is something else at work.

        Like

        • Tony Crocker July 23, 2019 / 7:47 am

          Mountain High and Snow Valley do not have adequate water to be fully open during dry years, of which there are many in SoCal. Mountain High East never opened during 3 of the past 6 seasons and when it is open it’s often for only a few weeks. The same is true for Snow Valley’s Slide Peak.

          Big Bear has an almost unlimited water source from its lake and thus dominates the SoCal local market. When the founding family was ready to aellin 2014, Mammoth had to buy Big Bear to keep it away from Vail.

          Like

    • Peter Landsman July 22, 2019 / 8:57 pm

      The hole I notice most is the Rockies north of Colorado and Utah. There are so many great resorts – Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Whitefish, Sun Valley, Schweitzer, Silver Mountain, Tamarack, Grand Targhee, etc. – none of which Alterra or Vail owns. Yes, some are partners but that is very different from being owned/operated.

      Liked by 1 person

      • che guevara July 22, 2019 / 9:29 pm

        it seems that, unless they are buying a collection of resorts (like triple peaks), VR and Alterra focus on resorts with at least 500K plus skier visits which makes sense since it takes that kind of volume to move the needle financially. That would shorten the list in the northern Rockies to Jackson Hole (Would the Kemmerers ever sell their baby?), and Sun Valley/Snow Basin (right on the border volume-wise but owned by heirs that may want to cash out). What about a high volume BC or Alberta resort that takes in a lot of US dollars, pounds or euros? Like Lk Louise, Sunshine or Sun Peaks? All owned independently or by foreign corporations? Or Big White? Owned by a squabbling sibling? Someone should invent a board game for this.

        Liked by 1 person

        • skitheeast July 22, 2019 / 11:25 pm

          Alterra invited every non-Vail ski operator to a conference when they were founded where they said: “Let us buy you or join our new pass.” SkiBig3, who have Lake Louise, Banff Sunshine, and Mt. Norquay, and Jackson Hole both turned down buy out offers in exchange for partnering, while Sun Valley/Snowbasin turned down purchase offers from both Alterra and Vail before choosing to partner with Epic over Ikon.

          The next ski resorts to go should be Jay Peak and Burke because of the whole financial mess over there. Those transactions will probably occur in the fall or after ski season in the spring. For Canada, their most visited resorts are Whistler, Tremblant, and Blue Mountain, all of which are already American owned. Many of their other mountains are already either partnering with Epic/Ikon (SkiBig3, RCR) or just not either deemed prime destination or feeder mountains.

          Like

      • Thomas Jett July 22, 2019 / 11:00 pm

        Peter, do you know of any resources that list annual skier days per mountain? I’m in an argument with a guy on Reddit about how anti-competitive this merger may be.

        Like

      • Ryan July 22, 2019 / 11:56 pm

        I hope they leave Sun Valley alone.

        Like

        • joe blake July 23, 2019 / 8:50 am

          Because the Holdings are such saints.

          Like

  12. ne_skier July 22, 2019 / 7:19 pm

    Kudos to all these independent ski areas who aren’t buying into the corporate resort ring. There are plenty of resorts out there that aren’t bringing in tons of cash but refuse to sell out to corporate faces. While common examples are Magic and Mad River Glen, Plattekill in New York is a good example as well. With it’s close proximity to Hunter, Windham and Belleayre (Not corporate-owned but ORDA runs their resorts, especially Belleayre like a corporation) you’s be surprised that this resort is completely family-owned. Sure, you can only ski there when it’s sunny, spring, or hot but it’s a great example of the preservation of family-owned ski areas.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Carleton July 23, 2019 / 10:33 am

    It seems that Epic will need some other lower tier ‘Epic Day Pass’. Paying $125 for day pass to Vail may be a great deal, but not at Jack Frost….

    I also agree that Ikon will need to do something more in the Northeast (or in general). Besides Jay Peak, there is Waterville Valley, or Bretton Woods, they could acquire or bring on as partners. They could perhaps increase the number of days at the partner resorts, perhaps go from 7 to 9 or 10 – but that involves negotiation with the partners.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Max Hart July 23, 2019 / 2:41 pm

    Interesting… now it will only take one bad snow year in the east to cripple VR.

    Like

    • skitheeast July 23, 2019 / 7:37 pm

      Quite the opposite. The point of the Epic Pass is that Vail already has a good chunk of their annual revenue before the first snowflake even hits the ground and passholders will go to whatever mountain is experiencing a good year. If the east coast has a bad year, passholders are more likely to fly out to a Vail resort out west. From Vail’s perspective, this lessens the bad snow’s impact on their bottom line.

      Like

      • Peter Landsman July 23, 2019 / 7:45 pm

        This is why the resorts with partnership agreements are still at a disadvantage. My understanding is the Tellurides, Sun Valleys, Big Skys, etc. only get paid when people show up to ski. Not months in advance like Vail and Alterra selling the passes.

        Like

        • skitheeast July 23, 2019 / 10:45 pm

          That is exactly right. Vail and Alterra don’t want to give them the full advantages because then the resorts would have no incentive to one day sell. Being a partner simply helps resorts fully capitalize on the good snow years, while being a Vail/Alterra resort does this while also helping to lessen the impact of a bad snow year.

          Like

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