Alterra Buys Snow Valley, California

Alterra Mountain Company today announced the purchase of its 15th ski area, Snow Valley Mountain Resort in Southern California. Snow Valley operations will fold into nearby Big Bear Mountain Resort, which includes Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. Snow Valley currently operates nine chairlifts including a detachable six pack and eight Yan fixed grips.

“The acquisition of Snow Valley Mountain Resort is a continuation of our ongoing mission to build a premier portfolio of great mountains in robust markets,” said Jared Smith, President and CEO of Alterra Mountain Company. “As we do with all our destinations, we are excited to invest essential capital to enhance the on-site employee and guest experience to further strengthen our offerings to skiers and riders in Southern California.”

The purchase has already closed and Ikon Pass holders can access Snow Valley beginning Monday, February 20th. Snow Valley’s current Indy Pass participation will likely end after this season.

19 thoughts on “Alterra Buys Snow Valley, California

  1. skitheeast January 20, 2023 / 9:36 am

    Good defensive purchase by Alterra (as it keeps Vail out of SoCal). Continuing to feed Mammoth, and Deer Valley to a lesser extent, from the second biggest population center in the US will also help each resort during their proposed expansions over the next decade.

    By folding it into Big Bear Resort, they are following the Aspen model of branding. Snow Summit and Bear Mountain could easily be connected with two lifts, but Snow Valley is too far for that to ever occur.

    Liked by 1 person

    • RandyM January 20, 2023 / 12:50 pm

      Couldn’t Vail buy Mountain High and get 3 areas in the process? They could connect 2 of the 3. Also Mt. Baldy is a pretty descent area when its 100% open.

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      • skitheeast January 20, 2023 / 1:26 pm

        Vail would only be interested in Mountain High, not Dodge Ridge, and it is unlikely the owners would sell one and not the other. Plus, given they purchased Dodge Ridge relatively recently, it is unlikely they are looking to sell and Vail would probably need to pay a premium.

        Mt. Baldy is interesting. It is a great mountain and well located, but Vail would need to build a gondola to replace Chair 1 to ensure it has long term success and does not turn into June. Plus, its snowmaking desperately needs an upgrade to cover at least all upper mountain terrain. In total, Vail would likely need to throw $20-$25 million at the mountain on top of the purchase price to modernize the resort, so the financial return needed to ensure it is worthwhile is quite large.

        Option 3 is Mt. Waterman, but they have no snowmaking and their lift system is antiquated. Any purchase would really just be for the land and it would be treated as a blank canvas, with a ton of capital required for snowmaking and lifts. The time and investment required here is likely to much for Vail to even consider.

        Liked by 1 person

        • El chapo January 20, 2023 / 3:10 pm

          Mt Baldy is a marginal operation at best. If it wasn’t for their summer hiker business they’d be gone by now. It’s a fun mountain but with no water for snow making and very little intermediate terrain it doesn’t have any attraction for a serious operator like vail resorts. Ditto for Mt Waterman. No water, no power and often no access. I don’t think waterman has even operated for a day the last five years. I’m surprised that Vail Resorts hadn’t snapped up Snow Valley already. I’ll bet the owners wouldn’t sell to them for some reason. They could make a play for mountain high but they’d also be getting a lot of under-performing assets without enough snowmaking water. MH West does a good business but East doesn’t operate unless it’s decent snow year and MH North is as good as dead. It’s interesting that they moved the tubing/snow play operation from MH North to MH East, probably acknowledging the insurmountable problems with the former Ski Sunrise. Whatever the reason, VR seems to have walked away (or been shut out) from a huge ski market.

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        • Somebody January 30, 2023 / 8:41 pm

          Vail would never buy Baldy or Waterman for the same reason they’d never buy Mad River Glen. Natural snow and hard terrain is not a part of their business model. Neither even have remotely near enough parking or road capacity for Vail to consider buying them.

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  2. el chapo January 20, 2023 / 9:41 am

    I wonder if this is a defensive move meant to protect Alterra’s So Cal market position and pass holder base from Vail Resorts. Other than that it’s a head scratcher. They already dominate that local ski market and they’re taking on a ski area with less access to snow making water and a slew of older lifts that will need replacing in the next few years.

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    • OttawaSkier January 20, 2023 / 2:11 pm

      My guess is that the ski area was up for sale and they wanted to keep Vail out of Socal.

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  3. John January 20, 2023 / 10:12 am

    Good day trip destination for Ikon pass holders without dealing with the headache of getting into and out of Big Bear City.

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  4. Ben Eminger January 20, 2023 / 10:13 am

    I wonder if Alterra will remove all the retired lifts that are still standing, they’d have a plethora of parts and the tacky look of standing decrepit lifts can be gone.

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    • John January 20, 2023 / 10:38 am

      Alterra could use the parts to keep half of Mammoth’s lift fleet up and running.

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  5. Dave January 20, 2023 / 12:48 pm

    Great, no competition at the local mountains. Expect even more price increases. Soon mtb tickets will exceed $100 too.

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  6. Kat January 20, 2023 / 1:33 pm

    As an IkOn pass holder this still angers me. Snow valley serve the purpose for beginners and for affordable family skiing. I liked that it decompressed the crowdedness at Bear and Snow Summit. I also liked that Snow valley hired younger employees so 15 and 16 year olds could get some job experience before high school graduation. I saw some beautiful graffiti that said, “Don’t Mammoth my June.” and I think this goes right along with my feelings of don’t Big Bear my. Snow Valley.

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    • skitheeast January 20, 2023 / 2:57 pm

      I understand the sentiment, but I think selling was a survival move. Natural snowfall and temperatures have become too inconsistent in SoCal, and operators need to either be extremely lean or have a large financial backing to survive every year. You may not want to Mammoth your June, but the reality is that June would be closed without Mammoth.

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      • El Chapo January 20, 2023 / 3:15 pm

        Mammoth tried to close June a few years ago (pre Alterra I think) but the villagers threw a fit and Rusty Gregory backed down promising new investment to try and build a sustainable market for June. Since then, no investment and still unsustainable. I’ll bet the Alterra board tries to come up with a way to ditch June every year.

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        • MammothBot98 January 20, 2023 / 3:50 pm

          Worked in Mammoth last year and there’s some moving parts to this.

          When Mammoth closed June for 2012-2013 there was a huge public backlash regarding it and on top of that the forest service threatened to pull Mammoth’s land lease which forced them back to the table the year after. This was done in response to the fact that June plays a huge role in the loops’ economy and shutting it down for a season was a terrible mistake.

          At an employee q & a last year someone asked Ron Cohen (current President for Mammoth mtn) what the plans were for June mountain and he said the following:

          First, June’s snowmaking is pretty limited and in low snow years they are really in a rough spot because they only have snowmaking on a handful of trails. However last year apparently they got a pilot deal with the local water authority to have significantly more water rights than before, not sure where that’s at now with below-average snow the last few years and a bananas season so far. If it works out long-term June mountain will have plenty of water rights to build more substantial snowmaking to get them through lean years.

          Once the mountain can offer more terrain in low-snow years the next priority would be to scrap chair J1 and replace it with a high speed quad. J1 is a huge liability for the mountain because its the only way up/down and getting injured or non-skiers down is especially problematic. If Mammoth’s gondola 1 & 2 get replaced in the next few years they could maybe refurbish stage 2 and move it to June mountain because they are both on steep alignments. But that may be a stretch because that gondola has ALOT of hours on it so they might decide getting a new lift, albeit not a gondola.

          Take that all with a grain of salt, I’ve seen alot of plans for Mammoth that are higher-priority in the coming years (new chairs 1 and 16, eastside gondola project, rebuilding all of main lodge, etc..) but if this new water rights plan works out we could see a drastic improvement.

          June is a much smaller town and will probably never anywhere near the amount of lodging and services as Mammoth, but it really is a short drive from Mammoth and their ski school program and 12 & under free tickets are a big draw to families from socal looking to go past big bear but not break the bank in Mammoth.

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        • Anthony January 20, 2023 / 8:54 pm

          @MammothBot98: The idea of taking one of the stages of the Panorama Gondola and using it to replace J1 is genius, I truly hope they’re looking at that.

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  7. Anthony January 20, 2023 / 8:56 pm

    The current model for expensive day tickets, cheap season passes/pre-commitment products isn’t going to work at a place like Snow Valley. It’s a small place, not a destination resort, and it’s where people *learn to ski,* which is critically important to getting them to a place where they’d buy a pre-commitment product.

    Hopefully Alterra tries something new here. Something’s got to give.

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    • skitheeast January 20, 2023 / 9:22 pm

      Weekends with good weather have sold out at Big Bear/Snow Summit this year, showing there is excess demand, but I agree they (Alterra and Vail) need to have a beginner type of deal at their resorts. Big Snow’s gear, equipment, and 2-hour lift ticket for $90 is one direction they could go. Mammoth’s beginner lift/carpet ticket is another option, although it should probably be about half of its current $90 price.

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      • Anthony January 22, 2023 / 12:44 am

        The problem is that people just learning to ski don’t generally don’t plan far enough in advance to purchase an Epic Day or Ikon Session pass. (Because they haven’t decided to go skiing yet!) They’re much more likely to be invited up or start planning a “trip” the week or two before they go. By that point, lift tickets and rentals and lessons are almost as expensive as they’ll be day-of at the resort.

        There needs to be a better learn-to-ski model, particularly for these smaller resorts. Many of the PNW resorts used to have a great deal that was like $150 that included three day tickets (first two beginner hill only, last one full-mountain), three two-hour group lessons, and three days of rentals. That type of model would be fantastic for growing the sport and getting people to a place where they’d purchase a pre-commitment product the next season. I worry so, so much about families with kids new to skiing or younger people newer to the sport—it feels like the current model is only good for existing skiers.

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