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The Commons
Business

Stratton is now part of 12-resort conglomerate

Parent company's acquisition by investment firms is one component of larger deal

Originally published in The Commons issue #422 (Wednesday, August 23, 2017). This story appeared on page D3.



STRATTON—Stratton Mountain ski area is now officially part of a 12-resort company that spans four states and two countries.

The acquisition of Stratton’s parent company, Intrawest, by two investment firms closed at the end of July. And the deal is even bigger than initially announced earlier this year, with four additional California resorts now in the mix.

The new, combined company is still organizing and doesn’t even have a name yet. But a spokeswoman said the deal eventually will bring benefits for Stratton’s pass holders and for the resort property itself.

“The new ownership has been very vocal about their intent to invest financial resources into the resorts,” said Lis de Roziere, a vice president for corporate finance and investor relations at Intrawest.

Stratton is one of several Vermont ski resorts to recently change hands. Stowe, Okemo, and Magic Mountain also are operating under new ownership.

The Stratton sale first was disclosed in April, when administrators announced a $1.5 billion deal in which Intrawest Resorts Holdings Inc. would be acquired by Aspen Skiing Co. LLC and KSL Capital Partners LLC.

Since then, the deal has changed and expanded.

One of the changes is more of a clarification: Intrawest now is being acquired by a joint venture of KSL Capital and Chicago-based Henry Crown and Company.

Aspen Skiing Co. is a subsidiary of Henry Crown, de Roziere said. The Henry Crown name is now being used for the purposes of this transaction, she said, because Aspen’s resorts aren’t actually part of the newly formed corporation.

“We realized [using the Aspen name] caused a lot of confusion in the marketplace,” de Roziere said. “It was never their intent to merge those four [Aspen] ski hills into the new company.”

Mammoth in the mix

The other change is that California-based Mammoth Resorts also has been acquired by the new company. The acquisition of Mammoth, de Roziere noted, was disclosed a few days after the Stratton announcement.

So, in total, there are three ski resort companies combining under new ownership — Intrawest, Mammoth, and Squaw Valley Ski Holdings. The new company controls 12 resorts representing 6 million annual skier visits, 20,000 skiable acres and “significant land available for real estate development,” administrators said.

The company also takes possession of Canadian Mountain Holidays, billed as “the world’s leading heli-ski operator,” as well as aviation and real estate businesses.

Intrawest brought six resorts to the deal. Along with Stratton, they are Snowshoe in West Virginia; Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Tremblant in Quebec, Canada; and Blue Mountain in Ontario, Canada.

Squaw Valley Ski Holdings contributes the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows resorts, both in California. And Mammoth operates four other California resorts — Mammoth Mountain, Snow Summit, Bear Mountain and June Mountain.

The new company’s resorts vary widely in size.

Stratton has 670 skiable acres, 97 trails and 180 inches of average annual snowfall, with a summit elevation of 3,875 feet.

But that is dwarfed by some of the Colorado and California resorts: For instance, Squaw Valley, which hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics, boasts 3,600 skiable acres, 170 trails and 450 inches of annual snowfall, with a summit at 9,050 feet.

Bryan Traficanti, a KSL executive who has been named the new ski company’s interim chief executive officer, said he believes that “each resort brings something different to the company, and our goal is to preserve the unique character and culture of each while also building something greater.”

’Multimountain access’

In announcing that the acquisitions had closed July 31, Traficanti added that executives are “excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Those opportunities include plans for a new pass that would allow Stratton customers to also visit the new company’s other resorts, though the details of that program are still in the works.

“There will be a product that allows multimountain access,” de Roziere said.

She also cited “new ownership, and new vision” that will lead to improvements at the ski mountains. It’s too early to say what those improvements might be at Stratton, de Roziere said, and there’s no significant work expected prior to the 2017-18 ski season.

This winter will be “business as usual,” she said. “It’s a longer-term change that they’ll probably see a year out.”

Stratton’s top administrator also is staying the same: Bill Nupp is continuing as president and chief operating officer.

The new, combined resort company will have a name before this coming ski season, allowing for a rebranding effort. But there are no plans to modify the Stratton name, de Roziere said.

“There will be a lot more to discuss a month and a half or two months from now,” she said. “Right now, people are hard at work.”

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