“One hundred million dollars” is how Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory responded when asked about capital improvements in the wake of the recent purchase of Mammoth Resorts by Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners this spring. While I can’t find a comprehensive online version of the 2007 Mammoth Master Plan prepared by Ecosign, the vision includes 17 lift additions and replacements including up to four new gondola stages. A vast majority of the changes are likely to be realignments and capacity upgrades of existing lifts rather than the opening of new terrain. Still, the possibilities are exciting at this already monster mountain.
Mammoth currently operates the largest second largest lift fleet in the United States, with 27 machines averaging 27 years old. All 14 lifts built before 1995 are Yan, while the 13 added post-1996 are exclusively Doppelmayr. Remarkably, every lift Mammoth has built since 1998 has been detachable, 15 in a row with DT grips (the two Yan detachables got them in 1996.) At some point, Mammoth’s impressive fleet commonality will have to end, but the streak may not be over just yet.
It’s been two weeks since the bombshellnews that Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners are joining forces to bring twelve ski resorts under a new entity rivaling Vail Resorts. While the deals won’t close for months, the new partners already say they plan to invest heavily in the guest experience. “We have earmarked a lot of capital for improvements to be able to continue to reinvest significantly in the communities and the mountains,” KSL CEO Eric Resnick told the Denver Post. “What’s exciting is being able to bring new opportunities with these communities and with these mountains to those customers who are already so passionate.” This could come in the form of new lifts ahead of the 2018-19 season and beyond. Below is a summary of announced plans and my speculation of what might be in store for KSL and Aspen’s upcoming resorts.
Alpine Meadows, CA:
Alpine Meadows applied for and received approval to replace the Hot Wheels chairlift in a new, longer alignment back in 2012. A mid-station offload would allow beginner and intermediate skiers to access the lower mountain while others could continue to an unload near the top of Sherwood, providing direct access to Sherwood and Lakeview. Approval for this lift likely expired in September 2015 but there’s no reason to believe Placer County would not approve it again.
Speaking of Lakeview, it is arguably the largest remaining pod at Alpine Meadows without detachable access. This 1984 CTEC is older than Sherwood and with approximately the same vertical rise. A high-speed quad is likely to replace it eventually.
Doppelmayr and CTEC have both built lifts at Alpine Meadows while Leitner-Poma has not. That could change with the unification of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
I’ve written before about the Base-to-Base Gondola which is still on the table but still requires multiple government approvals. It would traverse the White Wolf property between Squaw and Alpine with two angle stations along the way.
In the span of just three days, Vail Resorts has gained a challenger that spans North America. Today the new team of Aspen Skiing Company and KSL Capital Partners announced an agreement to acquire Mammoth Resorts from an ownership group led by Starwood Capital. Mammoth Mountain, Bear Mountain, June Mountain and Snow Summit will join the Intrawest resorts and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows brought under one roof on Monday. “This new platform, built around a collective passion for the mountains and our commitment to the people who visit, work and live there, is exactly what the ski resort business needs,” said Rusty Gregory, the longtime manager and chief executive of Mammoth Resorts. He called the move “the next logical chapter in the story of Mammoth.”
Aspen Skiing Company will continue to independently own Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass but it will likely cozy up to its partner resorts. With Aspen included, the new company will operate 207 lifts at 16 mountains compared with Vail Resorts’ 261 lifts at 14 mountains. Like Monday’s deal, the Mammoth acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter. What a week, and it’s only Wednesday.