Aspen Skiing Co. & KSL Capital Partners Buy Intrawest for $1.5 Billion

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Intrawest Resorts Holdings has entered into an agreement to sell to Aspen Skiing Company and KSL Capital Partners, the owners of Aspen Snowmass and Squaw Valley, respectively.  A new company owned by both partners will pay $23.75 in cash for each share of Intrawest, representing a total value of approximately $1.5 billion.  Intrawest shares had risen 49 percent since January on acquisition rumors and the deal includes Intrawest’s debt.  “This transaction creates significant opportunity for Intrawest and delivers tremendous value to our current shareholders,” said Thomas Marano, Intrawest’s chief executive officer.  “We are excited to work with Aspen and KSL. Our new partners bring additional financial resources and a shared passion for the mountains and our mountain communities. Both Aspen and KSL are committed to helping Intrawest accelerate our plans to bring more value to our guests, more opportunities for our employees and more investment into our local communities.”

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of this year and will likely affect pass options for the 2018-19 season.  Intrawest’s Blue Mountain, Snowshoe, Steamboat, Stratton, Tremblant and Winter Park resorts were founding members of the MAX Pass while Aspen’s four mountains and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows are both destinations on the Liftopia-backed Mountain Collective.  On the lift front, Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL/Squaw Valley are mostly Leitner-Poma customers while Intrawest mountains buy from both manufacturers (Tremblant/Snowshoe are all Doppelmayr, Winter Park/Blue Mountain are all L-P, Stratton and Steamboat have a mix.)

Update: Aspen Snowmass has posted a Better Together page and FAQ on its website. “Aspen Skiing Company will continue to be operated separately from Intrawest and Squaw, but we plan to work together in areas that make sense,” it notes.

News Roundup: A Million

  • Foundation work is starting for Disney gondolas.
  • Partek will build a fixed-grip quad at Mt. Peter, NY this summer.
  • East River Skyway proposal expanded to five phases with more possible stations.
  • Belleayre bid documents suggest December 2017 completion and a name for gondola: Catskill Thunder.  Funding was approved Monday though I’m told a manufacturer has not yet been awarded the contract.
  • NY State Fair gondola is also funded, separate from a chairlift to be built there by SkyTrans Manufacturing this summer.
  • Lee Canyon seeks approval to build two new quad chairs in new places.
  • Work to resume on Poma gondola in Zacatecas, Mexico with commissioning scheduled for September.
  • Gould Academy may build a T-Bar up Monday Mourning at Sunday River.
  • Intrawest stock hits record high amid acquisition rumblings.
  • A Yan detachable still operates with original grips in Spain.
  • Quebec announces $70 million in subsidies to support infrastructure investments at ski resorts in the province, including lift upgrades.
  • SEC filing shows exactly how much CNL Lifestyle Properties paid for each of the 16 ski resorts it owns.  The most valuable was Northstar at $80.1 million with Loon Mountain selling for just $15.5 million. The Gatlinburg Sky Lift operation went for a whopping $19.9 million!
  • Bridger Bowl to sell chairs from Virginia City if buyer falls through.
  • Interalpin, the every-other-year mountain technology nerd fest is April 26-28.
  • If rent payments to the federal government are any indication, Colorado is booming.
  • Flying demo tent gets hung up on Stowe gondola.
  • Staff at Barcelona’s urban gondola will strike.
  • In addition to completing the Green Lift, Magic Mountain will install a new motor and drive for the Black Lift and return capacity to three per chair.
  • Lift Blog reaches 1,000 Instagram followers, 700 Facebook fans and 1,000,000 page views.  Thank you to everyone who has supported me with this project over the last two years.

News Roundup: Quebec

  • Intrawest likely won’t buy any new lifts this year.
  • TV station in Maine highlights lift maintenance and oversight with visits to Sugarloaf and Camden Snow Bowl.
  • Denver7 lands the first interview with Larry Smith of the Colorado Passenger Tramway Board following Granby Ranch incident.
  • Sunshine Polishing moving gondola refurbishing operation to Grand Junction.
  • A $67 million, six-year old gondola in Rio sits abandoned.
  • Poma double rope evacuated at Mont Orford.
  • Heron-Poma double rope evac’d at Sleeping Giant before problem apparently fixed with a screwdriver.
  • French lift site reports on two brand new lifts in Quebec.
  • Waterville Valley’s new Green Peak triple will finally open Saturday.
  • “Mexicable is a great experience and it is something that you need to do should you ever visit Mexico City.”
  • Austrian rope manufacturer Teufelberger acquires Italian competitor Redaelli (Fatzer of Switzerland and ArcelorMittal of France are the other big two.)
  • See more photos of the mind-blowing Giggijochbahn gondola.
  • La Paz’s fourth gondola opens March 6th.
  • Leitner Ropeways will complete the new 8-passenger gondola in Torreón, Mexico in April.
  • British Columbia approves construction of Revelstoke Adventure Park with chairlift/gondola construction planned for 2017 and 2018 adjacent to Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
  • Seilbahn Blog has some awesome new photos of the first and only D-Line chairlift.
  • Seven year-old falls from chair at Thunder Ridge.
  • The New York Times checks in at Tamarack.
  • Arapahoe Basin formally unveils Beavers/Steep Gullies trail map & expansion plan with fixed-grip quad chairlift to debut in late 2018.
  • Doppelmayr to build 21,000′, $18 million gondola in Silao, Mexico.
  • Sugarloaf and Doppelmayr are doing a mid-season load test of Skyline on Thursday.

News Roundup: Huge

Steamboat Plans More Lifts

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Steamboat is the fourth largest ski resort in Colorado with 19 lifts and almost 3,000 acres of terrain on 10,568 foot Mt. Werner.  In 2011, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation commissioned Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners to perform a detailed mountain analysis and update the resort’s master plan.  The Routt National Forest approved the plan in 2013, which envisions seven new lifts installed over the next ten years to better serve skiers.  Included are a mid-mountain learning center served by a second gondola, a new lift on Sunshine Peak and replacement of four lifts with upgraded equipment.  The first of the upgrade projects already underway, replacing the Elkhead triple (a 1984 Yan) with a Doppelmayr detachable quad.  Initially proposed as a six-pack, Steamboat opted to build a 4-place detachable instead.  The new Elkhead will be the first Doppelmayr lift built here since 1997 following four new Leitner-Poma lifts built at Steamboat in the 2000s.

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Plan overview from Ecosign.  The new lift and trails on Pioneer Ridge shown in blue were not approved in 2013 but are within Steamboat’s existing permit boundary, were approved in 1996 and remain in the resort’s long term plans.
By far the largest component of the 2011 plan is the Rough Rider Learning Center in Bashor Bowl served by a new 8-passenger gondola.  The Bashor Gondola will rise from the base of the Silver Bullet Gondola to the northeast, crossing Christie Peak Express and Christie III.  The top terminal will house an 8,000 square foot skier-services building. Unfortunately for the gondola’s future mechanics, 3,500 square feet of that space for gondola cabin storage and maintenance will be a lunch room for 300 kids during the day.  At night, the gondola will service the lodge and a new tube park near the top terminal.  It will also spin all summer alongside the Silver Bullet.

Two fixed-grip chairlifts dubbed Rough Rider and Swinger (no way that name sticks) will service teaching terrain in Bashor Bowl along with 2-3 new magic carpets.  The 1989 Rough Rider platter nearby will be removed.  A third new chairlift will replace the Bashor lift in the same vicinity but in a new alignment ending 500′ higher.  Bashor is the second oldest lift at Steamboat, a Lift Engineering double dating back to 1972.

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Six Companies That Operate 589 Ski Lifts

Like many industries, much of the ski business is controlled by a handful of large companies. There are six such businesses in the Americas that operate more than 50 lifts each.  Their combined 589 lifts account for one fifth of all the lifts in North America and almost a third of the VTFH (vertical transport feet per hour.)  The top three operators are, as you would expect, Vail Resorts, Boyne Resorts and Intrawest.  But there are others including Mammoth Mountain, LLC which operates 55 lifts at four different ski areas in California and Powdr Corporation which has 68 lifts in five states.

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Vail Resorts doesn’t just own lots of lifts; the lifts they operate are bigger, newer and faster than average.  This winter, the company will operate 15 gondolas and tramways, 75 detachable chairlifts and 83 fixed grip chairlifts.  These numbers for Vail Resorts do not even include the lifts at Perisher, the company’s newest acquisition in Australia.  If you put each lift at each of Vail’s resorts end to end, the total length would be 115 miles.  The average lift owned by Vail Resorts is 21.5 years old, six years newer than the national average.  56 percent of Vail’s lifts were built by Doppelmayr and CTEC, 14 percent by Leitner-Poma.  Vail accounts for 11.4% of all the vertical transport capacity on the continent, with a total VTFH of 353 million!

Number of lifts for the six biggest operators and total life length in miles.
Number of lifts for the six biggest operators and total lift length in miles.

The second biggest resort operator is privately-owned Boyne Resorts, which has 126 lifts at 11 mountains.  Boyne doesn’t actually own most of the properties it operates; instead holding long-term leases through CNL Lifestyle Properties.  The lifts Boyne operates are older and smaller than Vail’s.  They include 30 detachable chairlifts and 85 fixed-grip chairs.   Doppelmayr and CTEC built 45 percent of Boyne’s lifts, followed by Riblet at 20 percent.  Boyne accounts for 5.3 percent of the total VTFH in North America or 162 million.

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