Vail Resorts closes on acquisition of Seven Springs, Hidden Valley and Laurel Mountain ski areas

Vail Resorts will add the three Pennsylvania resorts to Epic Pass products in 2022-23

Vail Resorts’ purchase of three Pennsylvania resorts follows the company’s ongoing strategy to bring skiers from major cities into nearby mountains.
Preston Utley/Vail Daily archive

Vail Resorts has closed on its acquisition of Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Hidden Valley Resort and Laurel Mountain Ski Area in Pennsylvania, the company announced Friday.

The resort operator purchased the resorts, including the ski areas, a hotel, conference center and other related operations, from Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Inc. and its affiliates for a final purchase price of approximately $118 million, including customary closing purchase price adjustments. Seven Springs, Hidden Valley and Laurel Mountain join Vail Resorts’ network of now 40 resorts worldwide.

Moving closer to cities

The acquisition follows Vail Resorts’ ongoing strategy to bring skiers from major cities into nearby mountains. In 2019, the company made a $264 million purchase of 17 resorts in the East and Midwest, many of which are situated near major metropolitan areas.

“As a company, we have been focused on acquiring resorts near major metropolitan areas, as we know many skiers and riders build their passion for the sport close to home,” said Kirsten Lynch, chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, in an early December news release when the deal was announced. “These great ski areas in Pennsylvania are a perfect complement to our existing resorts, creating a much stronger connection and compelling offering to our current and future guests in Pittsburgh as well as those in other critical markets such as Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Cleveland.”

Seven Springs is 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh and is among the largest ski resorts in Pennsylvania, with 285 skiable acres and 750 vertical feet. Hidden Valley offers 110 skiable acres and 470 vertical feet, with 26 slopes and trails and two terrain parks. Laurel Mountain offers 70 skiable acres and 761 vertical feet.

“The resorts truly are a part of the fabric of this region and a critical community asset. I am extremely proud of our stewardship of Seven Springs and its sister resorts, and even more so of all the people who we have worked with side-by-side to transform them into what they are today,” said Robert Nutting, president and chief executive officer of Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Inc. “It has been an honor to be a part of their incredible growth for more than a decade and leave each resort a much stronger community asset than we found it.”

Mutual interest ski markets

As Vail Resorts enters Nutting’s home market in Pennsylvania, the Nutting family is also entering Vail Resorts’ namesake market in Colorado.

Robert Nutting and the Nutting family are winter sports enthusiasts who recently shared their excitement in entering the ski market of Vail with the purchase of the Vail Daily’s parent company, Swift Media. The deal was scheduled to close Friday as well.

Robert Nutting is also CEO of Ogden Newspapers, a fifth-generation, family-owned and -operated newspaper company, founded in 1890 by H.C. Ogden. The company covered the Winter Olympics in 1980 after purchasing the Lake Placid News in 1979 and entered the ski business as operators in 2006 with the purchase of Seven Springs.

From 2006 to the present, Seven Springs nearly doubled the number of personnel during winter operations — from approximately 900 to more than 1,700, the resort announced in a news release Wednesday.

“The renewed focus on year-round programming helped to drive an equally dramatic climb in employment levels during the summer months, when the number of employees went from approximately 600 to more than 1,000,” according to the release.

The Nutting family also acquired the Hidden Valley ski area in 2013 and opened Laurel Mountain in 2016.

Robert Nutting announced that the company had purchased Swift — which owns newspapers in the ski areas of Aspen, Steamboat, Summit County, Park City and Lake Tahoe, as well as Vail — on Nov. 30. In the announcement, Nutting reiterated his family’s commitment to the industry and the critical role of community newspapers

“We believe that strong, responsible and connected local newspapers are critically important to building and supporting strong communities now more than ever,” Nutting said.

In announcing the sale of Seven Springs, Hidden Valley and Laurel Mountain to Vail Resorts on Wednesday, Nutting described Vail Resorts as a perfect successor to his family’s company.

“We are thrilled that the resorts will now become part of Vail Resorts’ network and are confident that Vail Resorts will continue to invest in what makes these resorts so special,” he said.

Busy few months

Vail Resorts began the month of August with $1.2 billion cash on hand, Chief Financial Officer Michael Barkin told investors in a fall 2021 earnings call.

In September, the company announced its largest single-year investment into its mountains with a $320 million capital plan taking place across 14 resorts, including a new chair planned for Vail running between the bottom of Chair 5 and the Wildwood area near Chairs 3 and 7.

In October, Vail Resorts reinstated its dividend after an 18-month hiatus, paying out 88 cents per share. Previously, the last time Vail Resorts has returned cash to investors via a dividend was April of 2020 at $1.76 per share.

In November, Kirsten Lynch began her role as new CEO, with former CEO Rob Katz taking on a new role as executive chairperson of the board.

And, in December, the company helped bring men’s World Cup ski racing back to the United States for the first time in two years by hosting the Birds of Prey World Cup races at Beaver Creek.

Seven Springs and Hidden Valley operate on private property. Operations at the three resorts for the 2021-22 winter season are scheduled to continue as originally planned. Vail Resorts aims to add the three resorts to select Epic Pass products for the 2022-23 ski season.

Vail Resorts is acquiring all of the assets related to the mountain operations of the resorts and related base area lodging, conference center and amenities. Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Inc. will retain select neighboring operations, including Highlands Market, Sporting Clays at Seven Springs, Seven Springs Golf Course, Hidden Valley Golf Club and Highlands Resort Realty.

This story contains information from a Vail Resorts news release.

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