Denver, Colo., March 28, 2002 (AP by Colleen Slevin)–Steamboat Springs residents are concerned about the future of the town’s Steamboat resort after a potential sale to a locally backed group collapsed.
Residents who have been at odds with the resort’s owner for three years say they still doubt financially strapped American Skiing Co. will be able to spend money to keep the mountain competitive, risking the heritage of Steamboat Springs, nicknamed Ski Town USA.
“Everyone’s in a state of shock because we’ve all been planning for some new beginnings and new lifeblood here,” City Council President Kathy Connell said Wednesday.
Newry, Maine-based American Skiing announced after the markets closed Tuesday it was calling off the sale of Steamboat to the owners of a Vermont ski resort, backed by mainly Steamboat investors. That group was just about to sit down to close the $91.4 million deal to buy Steamboat when the news came through.
Instead, American Skiing will keep Steamboat, regarded as its top western resort, and sell its Heavenly Ski Resort on Lake Tahoe to Vail Resorts Inc. for $102 million.
Vail shares closed down 17 cents Wednesday to $21.23 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Jim Larson, one of about 24 investors behind the proposed Steamboat sale, said American Skiing will have to use most of the money raised by the Heavenly sale to deal with its nearly $400 million debt.
As a result, Larson said Steamboat, famous for its champagne powder and Olympic-calibre skiers, could fall behind other destinations without needed capital improvements like lifts and new restaurants.
American spokesman Erick Preusse acknowledged the company has made some mistakes and said some capital projects would be planned after the company dealt with its debt restructuring. He refused to provide specifics.
American Skiing, which was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month, has been struggling under a heavy debt load and has never turned an annual profit since going public in November 1997. The company also owns Killington and Mount Snow in Vermont; Sunday River and Sugarloaf/USA in Maine; Attitash Bear Peak in New Hampshire and The Canyons in Utah.
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