By Lisa Lynn
For weeks, the signs have been there: fleet cars with Colorado plates cruising the Stowe Mountain Road, helicopters hovering over Spruce Peak, rumors of Vail Resort’s senior management locked in closed door sessions with the head honchos from Stowe Mountain Resort and AIG.
Then, at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21, Vail Resorts confirmed the rumors announcing it had entered an agreement to acquire Stowe Mountain Resort from Mt. Mansfield Company, Inc. (MMC), a wholly owned subsidiary of American International Group, Inc. (AIG), for a purchase price of $50 million, subject to certain adjustments.
Stowe Mountain Resort will be Vail Resorts’ first mountain resort on the East Coast and complements the company’s network of 10 world-class mountain resorts and three urban ski areas. The purchase gives Vail a foothold in the huge East Coast market, where skiers are expected to eagerly buy the Epic pass, giving them access to all of Vail’s resorts plus 30 partner resorts across Europe for less than $1,000. A season pass to Stowe alone this year cost $1,860.
Vail Resorts looks forward to integrating Stowe Mountain Resort into its Epic pass and other season pass products for the 2017-18 winter season, subject to the acquisition closing. With the Epic Pass, Vermont skiers and snowboarders will have unlimited access locally at Stowe as well as at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Tahoe; and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada.
The sticking points that have caused the deal to be dragged out, sources close to the negotiations say, were whether Vail would get the golden egg: the Spruce Peak development, hotel and real estate. For AIG, this has been a profitable venture. And it didn’t want to give it up. Tuesday’s news means that Vail went ahead and will simply be buying the ski resort operations. As of press time, it was unclear whether Vail would own the real estate and land surrounding the Toll House base area and Stowe’s Nordic Center.
Vail Resorts is acquiring all of the assets related to the mountain operations of the resort, including base area skier services (food and beverage, retail and rental, lift ticket offices and ski and snowboard school facilities) at Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak. Other facilities such as the Stowe Mountain Lodge, Stowe Mountain Club, Stowe Country Club and certain real estate owned and held for potential future development will be retained by MMC.
Operations at the resort for the remainder of the 2016-17 ski season will continue in the ordinary course as will future summer and winter seasonal hiring. Vail Resorts will be retaining the vast majority of the resort’s year-round staff.
“We’re thrilled to add Stowe Mountain Resort to our family of world-class mountain resorts. With the investments in both mountain infrastructure and base area facilities that AIG has made over the years, Stowe Mountain Resort has become the premier, high-end resort for East Coast skiers and snowboarders. We look forward to working with AIG to continue enhancing the guest experience and to ensure the resort’s long-term success,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.
Douglas Tymins, president and chief executive officer of AIG Global Real Estate, said, “Under Vail Resorts’ management, Stowe’s reputation as a premier ski destination with a commitment to excellent service will continue to grow. AIGGRE is looking forward to combining Vail Resorts’ tremendous mountain operations capabilities with our continued commitment to the development of the Spruce Peak community.”
Stowe Mountain Resort is expected to generate net income of $5 million in fiscal year 2017-2018, according to the news release.
Lisa Lynn is the editor of VT Ski & Ride and Vermont Sports Magazines, sister publications to the Mountain Times. The article first appeared on vtskiandride.com.