Two years after taking over Stowe Mountain Resort, its first New England ski resort, Vail Resorts has announced it will add Vermont’s Mount Snow and nearby White Mountain resorts Attitash and Wildcat to its expanding inventory, along with another 14 other resorts in the Northeast and Midwest.
Vail on Tuesday announced it will acquire 100 percent of the outstanding stock in Peak Resorts, adding 17 ski areas to its portfolio, bringing its total to 34 resorts across the United States.
As part of the deal, estimated at $264 million, Vail Resorts will assume or refinance Peak Resorts’ outstanding debt. The 17 new resorts will be added to Vail’s popular Epic Pass lineup, which now comes in four different iterations: the Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, Military Epic Pass and Epic Day Pass holders.
Many of the resorts are “feeder hills,” located within 100 miles of major cities, including New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Cleveland, Kansas City and St. Louis, giving those cities’ populations skiing and riding options within an easy drive. Many of them also have summertime activities like mountain biking and golf.
The ski areas in the Peak Resorts portfolio are:
Mount Snow in Vermont; Attitash Mountain Resort, Wildcat Mountain and Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire; Hunter Mountain, New York; Liberty Mountain Resort, Roundtop Mountain Resort, Whitetail Resort, Jack Frost and Big Boulder in Pennsylvania; Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine and Mad River Mountain in Ohio; Hidden Valley and Snow Creek in Missouri; and Paoli Peaks in Indiana.
“We are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to add such a powerful network of ski areas to our company,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. “Peak Resorts’ ski areas in the Northeast are a perfect complement to our existing resorts and together will provide a very compelling offering to our guests in New York and Boston.”
“Vail Resorts has a proven track record of celebrating the unique identity of its resorts, while continually investing in the guest and employee experience,” said Timothy Boyd, president and chief executive officer of Peak Resorts. “For this reason, we are confident that our resorts and employees will continue to thrive within the Vail Resorts network.”
Stock was sold at $11 a share, subject to certain conditions, including regulatory review and Peak Resorts’ shareholder approval. Shares in Peak Resorts closed at just over $5 Friday, and nearly doubled in trading Monday morning.
Peak Resorts had been growing in recent years, with the acquisition of several mountains in New York and Pennsylvania, thanks in part to an infusion of cash from the Sackler family, which is also connected to the production of the pain-relief drug Oxycontin. The family is now facing a multitude of lawsuits for allegedly helping fuel the nation’s opioid epidemic.
In the announcement, Vail spoke of “synergies” that are expected, both from the additional revenue coming in and from “cost reductions from the elimination of certain duplicative administrative functions and greater efficiencies brought by Vail Resorts’ size and scale.”
Stowe Mountain Resort spokesman Jeff Wise — who started at Stowe as a snowboard instructor 25 years ago — is now the communication director for Vail’s Northeast region. He was out of town this week when asked how the elimination of these “duplicative” functions might affect the local resort, but responded with a quick email.
“As we near the completion of the acquisition, Vail Resorts will work with the Peak Resorts leadership teams to set the right long-term structure and discuss integrations of the 17 ski areas,” Wise said.
Kim Brown, a Stowe Reporter ski columnist who still logs dozens of days at Stowe after nearly a half century of skiing the Front Four, said in an email Tuesday, “Certainly makes a good headline.”
Brown said he doesn’t think the acquisition itself will impact Stowe much, although it might delay any improvement that the resort has kept under wraps.
“I do feel that it doesn’t bode well for new investments in local infrastructure,” Brown said. “On one level addressing the Lookout chair, on another level taking advantage of improving lift and trails at the Toll House, which could improve weekend access options for Mansfield base.”
Smugglers’ Notch Resort, less than a mile as the snow flies from Stowe, is still very much not owned by Vail. The Peak Resort acquisition will be the third time in as many years that Vail has added a Vermont ski area to its ranks, and rumors keep coming about Smuggs eventually signing on, too. Smugglers’ Notch spokesman Mike Chait was on vacation, and wasn’t available to weigh in, once again, on the rumor mill.
In a closed Vermont ski and snowboard Facebook group, there was the usual snark and grumble about Vail’s new playthings — some people used the f-word, calling the company a “juggernaut” or monopoly; others were enthused to be able to catch more snowstorms on one pass.
Teton Gravity Research turned the now-famous photo showing a line of hikers in a human traffic jam on Mount Everest into a satirical “announcement” that Vail was also buying the world’s highest peak.
But there was also enthusiasm and anticipation from the local ski set about some of the other hills that will be available as part of the Epic Pass. Wildcat and Attitash in particular, with their locations near Mount Washington and its erratic weather patterns, are sure to be draws when the snowfall totals in Vermont just aren’t doing it.
There was also a sharp-eyed observer who noted that Vail also bought Mad River.
That would be Mad River Mountain, in Zanesfield, Ohio — elevation 1,460 feet with a 300-foot vertical drop.
Vail’s legal team included a caveat with its “forward-looking statements” regarding a transaction that hasn’t quite happened yet, cautioning people “not to place undue reliance on” the statements.
“Access to the 17 Peak Resorts ski areas is subject to closing of the transaction,” the release notes.
VTDigger contributed to this report.