For the second time in less than two months, a Vermont ski resort is being acquired by a buyer from out west, and Stratton Mountain Resort will soon come under an ownership group headed by Aspen Skiing Company.
Stowe Mountain Resort announced in February that it’s being purchased by Vail. On Monday, Aspen Skiing Company planted its flag in the Vermont ski market.
Aspen and a private equity firm called KSL Partners will buy Stratton Mountain Resort’s parent company, Intrawest, for $1.5 billion. The deal includes other resorts owned by Intrawest, including Mont Tremblant in Quebec and Steamboat in Colorado.
“Well, if you look at the ski industry over the last 10 years or so, consolidation is happening more and more,” says Jeff Hanle, director of public relations at Aspen Skiing Company.
Hanle says Aspen didn’t purchase the Intrawest properties, Stratton among them, because it though the resorts “needed change, or we wanted them to change.” He says employees at Stratton Mountain, and the skiers they cater to, won’t see any perceptible changes as a result of the ownership transition.
“And our plan is to keep the people in place that are making these places so great right now, and that have the relationships with the local community and local skiers and let them continue to thrive, and offer our support where we can,” Hanle says.
Parker Riehle, the president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, says the change in ownership is a positive development for the Vermont ski industry. As was the case when Vail purchased Stowe, Riehle says, Stratton will benefit by coming under ownership of a “world-class ski area operator.”
“And [Aspen brings] to the table capital investment and marketplace brand presence that can only be a win-win by further elevating Stratton and the Vermont ski industry,” Riehle says.
Riehle says there are good business reasons for ski corporations out west to establish a presence in Vermont. Between New York City, Boston and other urban hubs in the northeast, Riehle says there are 45 million potential customers within a four-hour drive of Vermont resorts.
“I think they see that real potential for growing their skier visits across the country with the key marketplace that we have here in Vermont,” Riehle says.
Rep. Oliver Olsen represents the House district that includes Stratton Mountain. Olsen says the resort is the economic anchor in the region, and not only because of its status as a large employer.
“A lot of small businesses are really centered around the second homeowner market, providing property management services, caretaking,” Olsen says.
Olsen says KSL Partners, the private equity firm partnering with Aspen in the deal, is run by two former executives at Vail.
“A combination of a well-respected operator on one end with some significant capital investment by a private equity firm run by folks with a lot of ski industry experience I think bodes really well,” Olsen says.
The deal is subject to regulatory approval. Intrawest says it expects to close the deal by the third quarter of this year.
Updated 4:15 p.m. 4/10/2017 to include further reporting.