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Tuesday, Aug 9, 2022

Ski-industry giant Vail Resorts acquires Peak Resorts

<span class="photocreditinline">COURTESY PHOTO</span><br />Freshly groomed trails and picturesque blue skies abound at Stowe Mountain Resort, one of the Vermont mountains included in Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass.
Freshly groomed trails and picturesque blue skies abound at Stowe Mountain Resort, one of the Vermont mountains included in Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass.

Following months of speculation that a potential deal was brewing, Colorado-based ski conglomerate Vail Resorts announced on Sept. 24 that it had acquired Peak Resorts, owner of the popular southern Vermont ski destination Mount Snow. With the acquisition of Peak Resorts, which operated 17 ski resorts located in the Northeast and Midwest, Vail Resorts now owns 37 ski mountain resorts in the United States, Canada and Australia, according to a Sept. 24 press release. 

The 17 new ski areas Vail added to its holdings include Mount Snow in Dover, Vt. and New York’s Hunter Mountain, as well as Attitash Mountain, Wildcat Mountain and Crotched Mountain Resorts in New Hampshire. Vail Resorts is already familiar with the Green Mountain State; the company purchased Stowe Mountain Resort in 2017, and Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow last year.

Since 1997, Peak Resorts ski areas have comprised nearly 1,890 acres of skiable terrain that appeal to a wide range of ages and abilities. Many resorts are located near major metropolitan areas.

With companies like Vail occupying such large tracts of skiable land, the ski industry is rapidly changing. The advent of large ski resorts and corporations means that smaller independently run ski mountains are doing their best to keep up with the competition. However, small ski mountains backed by larger companies can offer better ticket prices and deals — such as the Vail Resorts’  Epic Pass, which will now include all of the Peak Resorts.

“We are thrilled that with this acquisition, skiers and riders living in and around some of the biggest cities in the country will now have access to both ski close to home and at renowned mountain resorts around the world—with just one pass,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts in the September press release.

“We are excited to welcome each of these ski areas into the Vail Resorts family and to continue to invest in what makes them unique,” he said. 

Priced at $969 for the whole season, Vail’s Epic Pass is an attractive option for those looking to ski around the world. With one pass, snow-lovers can access mountains around North America, Australia and parts of Europe. Now, with the acquisition of Peak Resorts, more Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern mountains will be added to the growing list.

Given the unpredictable and weather-reliant nature of ski seasons, larger ski resorts thrive on the sale of pre-ordered and reduced rate season passes and bundles — like the Epic Pass — that insure revenue upfront. Lift tickets can be pricey, with some mountains in the U.S. charging over $100 for adult weekday passes.

Stowe Mountain Resort, one of now three Vermont ski mountains acquired by Vail Resorts, pictured here before it was purchased in 2011. Stowe is easily identified by its signature red gondolas that take skiers up the mountains.

The Epic Pass and similar deals offered by other ski resorts are fairly well known in the skiing world, and for some Middlebury College students, purchasing the Epic Pass is a no-brainer — especially now that it includes more mountains closer to campus.

Jacob Shashoua ’20 is one student looking to purchase the Epic Pass this upcoming ski season. “I love the idea of having an inclusive ski pass,” Shashoua said. “This [pass] makes skiing around the country accessible. As a college student, the prospect of going to ski at all of these mountains across the U.S. is now more of a possibility.”

However, not all Middlebury students are excited about the Vail deal. Emily Kohutnicki ’20, a member of the Snow Bowl’s Ski Patrol, said the acquisition might bolster infrastructure and sales at mom-and-pop mountains, but might also affect the local ski culture.

“I think that [the acquisition] is good in a way because smaller mountains like Mount Snow, where I grew up skiing, will get a lot more developed with more funding. But, [these larger resorts] no longer foster a sense of comradery and cheap skiing,” Kohutnicki said. 

Ski enthusiast Charlotte Bichet ’20 has mixed feelings about Vail’s Epic Pass as well.

“I like the inclusivity of the Epic Pass, but it could drive out smaller mountains. With fewer organizations owning these ski mountains, [companies] can run up prices because there is no longer any competition,” Bichet said. 

“Passes like these are running little mountains, like the Snow Bowl, out of business,” Kohutnicki said.

While Bichet is not fully against Vail’s deal with Peak Resorts, she noted that “there is definitely a bit of a give-and-take with these smaller mountains being bought up.”

But amidst all the financial details and legalities of the acquisition, there is one thing that Middlebury students can agree on: There is nothing better than a snowy day on the slopes.

“Regardless of the politics of large corporations buying ski mountains, this business is keeping the slopes of Vermont open,” Bichet said. “And we’re all really excited for the upcoming ski season.”