Utah's Deer Valley sold in ski industry consolidation

AP News
Posted: Aug 21, 2017 7:50 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah's Deer Valley Resort announced Monday it has been purchased by a new company that has brought 13 ski areas from Quebec to Colorado under one umbrella, marking the latest deal in an industry that is becoming more consolidated.

Deer Valley becomes group's first ski area in Utah and joins a collection of resorts that also includes Mammoth and Squaw Valley in California, Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado and Mont Tremblant in Quebec.

The new company has not yet been named and is run by affiliates of the KSL Capital Partners and Henry Crown and Company investment firms.

The acquisition of Deer Valley, considered one of the best ski resorts in the U.S., sets the company up to challenge Vail Resorts, which last year purchased Canada's Whistler Blackcomb and owns 14 ski areas.

The purchase price was not disclosed in the Deer Valley deal which is expected to be finalized before ski season. Deer Valley was owned by the Stern family since it opened in 1981.

Bob Wheaton, the longtime general manager of Deer Valley, called it a great opportunity to join forces with other world class resorts while maintaining local decision-making power at the resort in Park City, Utah. He said the resort will remain the same and keep its ban on snowboarding in place.

Being part of a larger coalition of resorts will help the ski area get better deals on purchases of everything from snow grooming machines and chairlifts food served at the resort, Wheaton said. He said the new company has also discussed different joint ski passes options that would allow skiers to buy a pass that are valid for skiing at multiple resorts.

Vail Resorts offers the popular Epic Pass, which allows skiers to buy one pass to ski multiple times at its different resorts.

"The partnership with three other resorts will unlock some doors as far as future possibilities and different products," Wheaton said. "What those are, I don't know yet."

Adding Deer Valley gives the new company a well-regarded resort that has a boutique feel and is known for great powder skiing, said Tom Foley, a ski industry analyst and director of business intelligence for Inntopia, a travel marketing and research company.

It will also give Deer Valley more financial backing that should help in the ultra-competitive ski industry, Foley said.

Foley said the introduction of a pass for skiers to ski all of the company's resorts would be good for consumers.

"You can have your home mountain and be in love with it, but it's kind of nice to go somewhere else different," Foley said.

The collection of 13 resorts now owned by the new company doesn't include four Colorado resorts owned by Aspen Skiing Co. — Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk — even though that company is owned by Henry Crown and Company, which forms part of this new joint venture, said Lis de Roziere, of the company Intrawest, which owns some of the resorts in the new company.

In April, Aspen partnered with Denver-based KSL Capital Partners to acquire Intrawest Resorts Holdings for about $1.5 billion. Intrawest owns six of the resorts that form part of the new company: Steamboat Ski Resort and Winter Park Resort in Colorado, Snowshoe in West Virginia, Stratton Mountain in Vermont, Mont Tremblant in Quebec and Blue Mountain in Ontario.

The Aspen resorts may still be considered for inclusion in the new company's multi-resort season passes in the future, Roziere said.

Utah's Solitude resort, which Deer Valley bought in 2015, was not included in the sale announced Monday. It will still be owned by Deer Valley partners, the resort said.

Deer Valley's sale means all three ski areas in the mountain town of Park City, Utah, will be owned by mega ski companies.

Vail Resorts bought Park City Mountain Resort in 2014 and connected it to neighboring Canyons Resort to create one of the largest ski areas in the U.S.