Vail buys Crested Butte Mountain Resort | SteamboatToday.com
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Vail buys Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Steamboat Springs ski racer Caroline Gilchrist races through the gates at Crested Butte Mountain Resort in March.
Dan Gilchrist/courtesy

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Monday’s news that Crested Butte Mountain Resort was among the latest acquisitions of Vail Resorts advances the competition between its Epic Pass and the Ikon Pass and, with it, the consolidation of destination ski areas, particularly in the American West.

The Associated Press reported that Vail will make Crested Butte its fifth Colorado ski resort along with Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail, its flagship resort. It will pay $82 million to acquire Triple Peaks LLC, which is held by the Tim and Diane Mueller family and includes Crested Butte, Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont and Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire.

The Denver Post is reporting that Vail will also pay $155 million to a third corporate entity, Ski Resort Holding, to compensate it for lease payments it is owed for Triple Peaks’ operations of the ski area.

Vail also announced plans this week to acquire the Stevens Pass Ski Area in Washington state for $67 million.

But in Colorado, Vail’s acquisition of Crested Butte represents the latest salvo between Vail’s Epic Pass and Alterra’s Ikon Pass, of which Steamboat Ski Resort is a part.

Vail Resorts has been on a buying spree, acquiring resorts from the giant Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia down to tiny Wilmot, Wisconsin, as it also seeks to earn the loyalty of destination skiers with the value of its Epic Pass and to dominate the ski resort industry in North America.

In April 2017, the Crown family, owners of the ski resorts in Aspen, partnered with Denver-based KSL, owner of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows in the Tahoe region, to acquire Steamboat Ski Area and the rest of the Intrawest resorts, including Winter Park, for $1.5 billion. The new Alterra Mountain Company went on to add Mammoth Mountain in California and Deer Valley in Utah to its list of resorts.

That led to the company’s debut of its own multi-resort pass. It took less than a year for Alterra to announce the Ikon Pass, marking a sea change in the competition among North American ski resorts.

The new alliance between Vail and Crested Butte represents the marriage of one of America’s funkiest historic ski towns with one of its most corporate ski resort companies. Town of Crested Butte council member Will Dujardin acknowledged the announcement is creating a stir in his community.

“I know a lot of people are fired up about it,” he told Steamboat Today. “But, I don’t think a lot of people realize the condition of the resort and how much work needs to be done.”

Crested Butte, somewhat like Telluride and the nearby Town of Mountain Village, is really two towns — old Crested Butte, a National Historic District with a history of coal mining and the newer Town of Mount Crested Butte at the base of the ski area.

Laura Mitchell has served on the Town of Crested Butte council since 2015 and said she and her colleagues are devoted to trying to retain the town’s authentic character and “not be sellouts.” She said many of the community’s citizens are outspoken about change, but she thinks the sale of the ski area will turn out to be positive.

“Our town is very reactionary,” Mitchell said. “People freak out about things … Everybody has a big mouth in this town.

“The bottom line is we need cash,” Mitchell continued. “The ski area is falling apart. We haven’t had a new lift since 2005.”

The Mueller family acknowledged in a letter to the Crested Butte community that some people might find the news of the sale unsettling and urged residents to be open to Vail’s approach and afford the company the “opportunity to prove their good intentions.”

Dujardin predicted selling Crested Butte Mountain Resort to Vail Resorts would become the Mueller family’s legacy in the community.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.


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