Update: The continuing march of resort consolidation took a giant step forward this week with the official closing of the estimated $1.5 billion deal announced in the spring that had a new partnership between Aspen Skiing Company and KSL purchase Intrawest Resorts and Mammoth Resorts.
This newly formed mega-operator combines a dozen resorts into one company, including many iconic destinations, such as former Intrawest flagships Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado, and Stratton in Vermont. Other resorts in the new portfolio include Mammoth Mountain, California's busiest ski area, Squaw and Alpine, and Tremblant in Quebec. The deal also includes heli operator Canadian Mountain Holidays. The new group boasts approximately six million skier visits, 20,000 skiable acres and loads of land for real estate development at the resorts.
Viewed through a skier's goggles, the major consequences of the billion-dollar deal will play out over the next few seasons, with capital improvements, such as new lifts and lodging, under discussion at various resorts.
For this upcoming season, however, the current wide variety of passes, such as the Rocky Mountain Super Pass, Mountain Collective, and the M.A.X. Pass will be honored. But stay tuned for what certainly will be a new mega-pass launched for the 2017-18 season, rolling all the resorts in the new portfolio—in addition to the four Aspen resorts—into one seriously super pass.
The Aspen/KSL deal represents the first major competition to Vail Resorts continuing expansion, such as Vail's acquisition in the summer of 2016 of Whistler Blackcomb, which has the most skier days of any resort in North America. Vail followed the Whistler deal by purchasing Vermont's Stowe Mountain Resort, Vail's first expansion into the East.
As the dominant player in U.S. resort operations for a generation, Vail Resorts frequently leads the way in resort innovation and the ongoing evolution of the business end of the ski-resort industry. For instance, Vail Resorts signaled the start of the most recent wave of resort consolidation with its acquisition of Utah's Park City Mountain Resort in 2014, which it quickly connected to Canyons Resort, forming the largest resort in the U.S., and expanding the reach of Utah skiing along the way.
Is this the end of ski-resort consolidation? You know the answer to that.
Mammoth Mountain announced this morning that the resort and its holdings—Bear Lake, June, and Snow Summit—will be acquired by Aspen Skiing Company and KSL Capital Partners. Terms of this transaction have not been disclosed. This immediately follows the announcement made on April 10 that Aspen and KSL—which owns Squaw/Alpine Meadows—have purchased Intrawest resorts for $1.5 billion.
This brings the total resorts owned by Aspen and KSL's newly formed investment group to 15; Vail Resorts currently owns 11. Aspen and KSL now have a serious foothold in California with Squaw/Alpine Meadows and Mammoth, Colorado with Aspen's four resorts and Steamboat, and the East with Tremblant and Stratton.
Aspen and KSL's new Acquisitions
For skiers not living on the West Coast, Mammoth tends to be a quiet giant, and not a top-of-mind destination resort. However, describing a resort as “quiet” that regularly is one of the top 10 most popular resorts in the nation when ranked by skier visits obviously is off the mark.
Mammoth’s low profile outside its region shows the marketing dominance of ski states such as Utah and Colorado, for instance. Or perhaps it shows a need for more aggressive marketing by Mammoth. You can bet that's about to change, with the new collective marketing muscle of Aspen and KSL undeniably taking on Vail Resorts' leadership position in the resort industry.
Yes, there’s a reason it's named Mammoth Mountain. The numbers are beefy with a 3,100-foot vertical, more than 3,500 acres and a summit elevation of 11,053 feet. And with a season that can slide into June, it all adds up to perhaps the busiest so-called regional resort in the U.S.
“Mammoth has been Southern California’s mountain home since 1948,” said Rusty Gregory, chairman and CEO of Mammoth Resorts in the press release issued this morning. “After doubling down on our offerings to Southern California with the purchase of Snow Summit and Bear Mountain in 2014, joining this new venture led by Aspen and KSL is the next logical chapter in the story of Mammoth Resorts. 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. I am excited about the future prospects for Mammoth Resorts, our people and this new enterprise.”
Mountain Collective, indeed.