In February, Vail Resorts jumped into the eastern ski market with its planned purchase of the Stowe Mountain Resort. The $50 million sale is expected to close in June, and Vail has kept the buzz going with other investments and announcements.
This week Vail announced it would retain the vast majority of Stowe Mountain Resort's mountain operations staff after the acquisition. However, Resort President Barry Pius is among nine employees who are being let go, along with Marketing, Sales and Communication Vice President Mike Colbourn.
Bobby Murphy, a Vail vice president, will be coming to Vermont to take the helm in Stowe. Meanwhile, Vail has made a couple other investments in town.
Caitrin Maloney is executive director of Stowe Land Trust. This week she got a $100,000 check in the mail from Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz and his wife Elana Amerterdam.
"We got a phone call from Nicky DeFord, over at Vail," Maloney explains. "She heads up the Epic Promise Foundation, and then also manages Rob Katz and his wife’s personal giving. And she said that she had identified Stowe Land Trust, or that Rob had, for a gift. And she let me know the amount, which was very unexpected."
DeFord says the Stowe Land Trust gift was part of $1.6 million the couple gave away this month.
"We said, 'This seems like something that is important to so many different groups of people in Stowe and something we need to do.' And Rob agreed," says DeFord. "And he felt like that was a good place to start with our commitment in the community."
DeFord says Vail has multiple giving programs, aside from the CEO’s personal donations. The company gives grants to nonprofits that serve its 13 ski towns and surrounding areas where resort employees live. Much of the giving focuses on youth programs and environmental causes.
"Our communities are so important," she says. "And our employees who live in these communities and the folks who call these communities home, they’re what make these places so special and what makes people want to visit."
All told, DeFord says the company gave away $8.6 million last year. But the Epic Promise grant application cycle starts in June, so it's possible Stowe area charities won’t be eligible for this year’s giving.
Last week Vail also announced a major business contract with the Stowe-based software company Inntopia.
"There’s certainly some serendipity in that we finalized our contract shortly after Vail announced their deal with Stowe," says Inntopia CEO Trevor Crist. "We were pretty pleased to be able to land them as an account around the same time."
Crist says Inntopia’s e-commerce and reservation software is used at most ski resorts in North America. Stowe Mountain Resort began using Inntopia software this season. But it was another recent Vail acquisition that sold the company on Inntopia’s product.
"Whistler Blackcomb, which they acquired prior to the Stowe deal ... has been a longtime customer of ours," says Crist.
These investments have locals wondering what kind of impact the pending resort purchase will have on Stowe’s economy in the long run.
Zoë Bedell is a realtor with Little River Realty in Stowe. She says it’s too early to say if the sale announcement is going to have a big effect on the market, but it’s definitely part of the discussion.
"The conversations that are happening around real estate in Stowe all include the Vail purchase," says Bedell. "It's a talking point. It will be interesting to see how much of impact it has on the market, and in what segments."
Bedell says realtors in town are optimistic. If the resort sale goes through this spring, it could be a lucrative summer in the Stowe real estate market and a boon for the local economy overall.