Three things in life are certain: death, taxes and Vail Resorts acquiring more ski areas. The third item on the list reentered our orbit when Vail Resorts announced a merger agreement to acquire Peak Resorts, and subsequently assumed control of 17 ski areas across the United States. The resorts will be added to the Epic Pass for the upcoming 2019-2020 ski season following the deal’s closing this fall.
The 17 ski areas include Vermont’s Mount Snow, New York’s Hunter Mountain; New Hampshire’s Attitash Mountain Resort, Wildcat Mountain and Crotched Mountain; Pennsylvania’s Liberty Mountain Resort, Roundtop Mountain Resort, Whitetail Resort, Jack Frost and Big Boulder; Ohio’s Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine and Mad River Mountain; Missouri’s Hidden Valley and Snow Creek; and Indiana’s Paoli Peaks.
Though some of the new acquisitions are well-known staples of the New England ski landscape, many of the resorts in Peak Resorts’ portfolio are smaller areas near major metropolitan areas. It’s highly unlikely many Utah-based or intermountain-adjacent skiers will head to the Midwest to check out the relatively-modest slopes of Ohio, Indiana and Missouri, but there’s a high likelihood that skiers from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland and St. Louis will leverage their newly-local Epic Pass privileges with trips out west.
Undoubtedly, this is a boon to skiers who frequent the newly-acquired resorts who will enjoy an influx of resources to their local hills as well as more affordable access to the Utah’s famed powder. On the other hand, the same increased access will likely lead to more skier days at Park City Mountain. Your mileage will vary on the latter point depending on your point of reference. Vail Resorts is doubling down on their strategy of pre-selling as many skier days as possible to avoid the inevitable fluctuations in enthusiasm that correspond with unpredictable snowfall totals, as CEO Rob Katz articulated in public remarks to Parkites this spring. Local skiers who were miffed about unusually long lift lines last season, particularly at Canyons Base area, may not be as thrilled.
Vail Resorts is betting big on skier outreach in metropolitan markets as evidenced by the aggregate purchase price of $264 million for all Peaks Resorts common stock. Ski resort concentration—with all the fraught connotations it entails—continues at a relentless pace throughout the industry. Vail Resorts did mention in their accompanying press release they plan to, “retain the vast majority of each resort’s employees,” moving forward to lessen the specter of the corporate boogeyman coming to haunt smaller operations.
When the deal is done, skiers with full Epic Pass benefits will have access to a whopping 94 different ski areas. Choices for which ownership group to patronize are diminishing, but there will be no shortage of ski resorts to visit for those who hop on the Epic Pass train.
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