The largest publicly-traded ski resort company in the world today simultaneously unveiled two major transactions to buy ski resorts in four different states for more than $300 million. Vail Resorts will acquire Triple Peaks, LLC for $82 million and Stevens Pass, Washington for $67 million, subject to regulatory approval. The former, founded and owned by Tim and Dianne Mueller, operates Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado and Mt. Sunapee in New Hampshire, hence the name Triple Peaks. Broomfield, Colorado-based Vail will buy out the three resorts’ long term leases from Oz Real Estate upon closing for an additional $155 million. Okemo, Mt. Sunapee and Crested Butte signed onto the industry-pioneering Epic Pass back in March and will now offer unlimited, unrestricted access for Epic passholders.
Another Oz-owned resort, Stevens Pass, will be sold to Vail for $67 million in a separate deal subject to regulatory approval. Stevens Pass is currently operated by Karl Kapuscinski along with Mountain High, California. The SoCal resort is not included in Vail’s purchase. Stevens Pass will join the Epic Pass for the first time, making it an even more compelling product for Pacific Northwest skiers who frequent Whistler Blackcomb. Stevens will also be included in the Edge Card, a product that predated Vail and is offered exclusively to residents of British Columbia and Washington. Notably, Stevens Pass has major lift expansions on both flanks of the current trail system in its approved master plan.
With today’s news and other deals including the sale of six resorts to Boyne Resorts, the Oz Real Estate Ski Resort Holdings portfolio now includes just Jiminy Peak and Sierra at Tahoe, down from 15 resorts at its peak under CNL Lifestyle Properties. Northstar California, Mountain High and Bretton Woods were also sold off over the last few years.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s vision to add three lifts and 500 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain moved forward last Friday with the release of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement by the Gunnison National Forest. Operated by Triple Peaks, LLC along with New England’s Okemo and Mt. Sunapee resorts, Crested Butte currently has a fleet of 12 lifts serving mostly beginner and expert terrain. The 58 year-old mountain seeks to provide guests more intermediate and advanced options and improve skier circulation. Triple Peaks owners Tim and Diane Mueller were previously blocked from building a five-lift, 2,000-acre expansion on neighboring Snodgrass Mountain in 2009.
Under the new plan, first proposed in 2015, one current lift would be replaced with two more added in an area called Teocalli 2 – far from Snodgrass and nearer current resort infrastructure. The North Face lift, a Leitner T-Bar installed in 2004, would be removed and replaced with a much longer chairlift. This fixed-grip quad would stretch around 5,000 feet with a capacity nearly twice that of the current surface lift. The new lift was orignally envisioned to start between the East River and Paradise lifts but is now slated to load directly adjacent to Paradise.
A second new lift with the working name Teo Park would similarly top out at the summit of the North Face but rise from the Teo 2 drainage behind. This fixed-grip triple would move 1,200 guests per hour with a slope length of 3,050′ and create a link between the proposed expansion area and the already-developed ski area front side.
The heart of the expansion lies lower in the west-facing Teo watershed, where a new high-speed or fixed-grip triple would span approximately 6,000 linear feet. Capacity would be limited to 1,200 skiers per hour and only a handful of new intermediate runs cut, totaling 89 acres. Most of the terrain – 434 acres – would be left as gladed skiing with select trees removed by helicopter. This expansive zone would supplement the popular and sometimes overcrowded intermediate runs serviced by Paradise and East River.
Public comments for this major project will be accepted here until May 10th and the Forest Supervisor is expected to make a decision around October. Implementation of approved elements could begin as early as 2019 and the Mueller family would likely sign with Leitner-Poma for any new lifts as they have for decades at Crested Butte, Okemo and Sunapee.
Italy’s Leitner and Aguido are merging. Leitner built a couple dozen lifts in the US and Canada before their joint venture with Poma began in 2002. Aguido built the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway in New Hampshire.
Sugarloaf decides it doesn’t have the money to upgrade its oldest lift to acceptable safety standards so it will be removed without a replacement. Bucksaw was built in 1969. After it is removed there will be 23 Stadeli lifts remaining in operation, four of which are older than Bucksaw.
Rumor on Skilifts.org is SkyTrac will complete the abandoned, half-constructed Stagecoach lift on the Moonlight Basin side of Big Sky. I believe this Doppelmayr double came from the defunct Fortress Mountain in Alberta.