Local News

Vail to buy Okemo, Sunapee, Crested Butte

Mueller family will enter purchase agreement after 36 years at the helm

By Elizabeth Hewitt, VTDigger

LUDLOW — Triple Peaks, LLC, owned by Tim and Diane Mueller and their children Ethan and Erica Mueller, announced Monday, June 4, they have entered into a purchase agreement with Vail Resorts, Inc.

Triple Peaks, LLC is the parent company for Okemo Mountain in Vermont, Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire and Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado.

The sale includes the three ski resort operations, as well as Okemo Valley Golf Club in Ludlow and Tater Hill Golf Club in Windham. As part of the transaction, Vail Resorts will also own the leasehold assets presently owned by Och-Ziff (OZ) Real Estate, according to the news release.

Vail will reportedly pay $82 million for the purchase as well as 155 million to pay off leases that all three resorts have with Ski Resort Holidings LLC, an affiliate of OZ Real Estate, subject to adjustments at closing.

Tim Mueller, who has owned and run Okemo with his wife, Diane, since 1982, said they were not planning to sell their business when Vail Resorts approached them about an acquisition in November.

“We did not go out and look for a buyer, but if we did Vail probably would have been our number one choice,” he said.

Since 1982, the resort developed significantly under their ownership, building out snowmaking capacity, lodging and other services.

“Diane and I are incredibly proud of what we have accomplished at the three resorts for the last 36 years,” said Tim Mueller, in the news release. “We have had the great privilege of working with a lot of smart, hardworking, dedicated team members, as well as many other people in the local communities and the states where the resorts are located.”

Diane Mueller added, “Over the years, we have honored each resort’s distinctive attributes, thus establishing a culture and brand at each resort which has translated into visitation by millions of loyal guests over the years. Knowing that Vail Resorts has a knowledgeable, invested and experienced team gives us optimism about the future of our resorts, our dedicated employees, and our local communities.”

These days, Okemo is a year-round resort with two golf courses. In the winter, the mountain employs about 1,400 people, including seasonal and part-time workers, according to Mueller. About 500,000 skiers come to the mountain annually, he said.

Mueller said there likely will be some differences in how the mountain is managed under the new ownership, however, he is optimistic of a smooth transition.

“I think there’ll probably be angst in the community for a while, but I think the people at Vail are people.”

The Muellers bought Mount Sunapee in southern New Hampshire in 1998. They later expanded west, buying Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado in 2004.

Mueller said they felt the time was right to sell, given changes within the ski industry. There are increasing demands for capital investments every year, he said.

Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said in a statement about the acquisitions ,“We’re very much looking forward to welcoming Crested Butte, Okemo and Mount Sunapee to our family of resorts, and each of their teams into our company. These three resorts add incredibly unique and special experiences to our portfolio, and will truly enhance the variety of options for all our guests.”

The deal further expands Vail Resorts’ presence in the East. The company purchased Stowe Mountain Resort in February 2017.

In a separate deal, also announced on Monday, Vail is buying Stevens Pass Resort in Washington state for $67 million.

The sales are anticipated to close later this summer. They are subject to regulatory approval.

Earlier this year, Triple Peaks announced that the three ski areas would join Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, a program that allows pass holders to ski at Vail-affiliated mountains around the world.

In a statement, Vail Resorts said the company plans “to retain the vast majority” of employees at each resort. The company plans to invest $35 million across the four resorts once the sales are complete.

Sen. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, a Ludlow resident, credited the Muellers with expanding Okemo Mountain Resort, which led to development in the town as well, she said.

“It’s a family mountain, and they really built it to what it is today,” Nitka said.

Nitka said she was surprised to learn Vail Resorts would be purchasing the mountain because she wasn’t aware the company was looking to expand its presence in Vermont beyond Stowe.

Nitka said that it is possible there will be some uneasiness in the community about the shift in ownership of the mountain. The Muellers’ “personal hands-on touch” will be missed, she said.

“One hopes that it will still be more personal than very distantly managed,” she said.

Vail Resorts will honor any previously purchased Okemo, Mount Sunapee or Crested Butte season passes for the 2018-19 winter season as they integrate the resorts into the Epic Pass and other Vail Resorts pass products. For more information, visit epicpass.com.

Vail Resorts, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is the leading global mountain resort operator. Vail Resorts’ subsidiaries operate 11 mountain resorts and three urban ski areas, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado, Park City in Utah, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada, Perisher in Australia, Stowe in Vermont, Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin; Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan.

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