Steamboat Ski Area Part of $1.5 Billion Acquisition
By Dan Greeson
Downtown Aspen, Photo by Dan Case
Steamboat To Join Forces with Aspen and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows
Intrawest Resorts Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SNOW), has agreed to a deal to be acquired by a newly formed entity controlled by affiliates of the Aspen Skiing Company, L.L.C. and KSL Capital Partners, LLC. The Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., currently owned and operated by Intrawest, will be a part of the acquisition. The $1.5 billion transaction, which includes debt obligations to be assumed at closing, is expected to be finalized before Sept. 30.
Besides Steamboat, Intrawest's resort interests include Blue Mountain, Ontario; Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia; Stratton Mountain Resort, Vermont; Mont Tremblant Resort, Quebec; Canadian Mountain Holidays, Alberta; Zihuatanejo, Mexico; and Winter Park Resort, which it operates on behalf of the City of Denver, owners of the resort.
Intrawest will continue to operate from its headquarters in Denver and will continue to operate "in ordinary course," according to a statement on the Aspen/Snowmass website.
Aspen Skiing Company owns and operates four mountains – Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk – as well hospitality properties The Little Nell, Residences at The Little Nell, Limelight Aspen and Limelight Ketchum in Ketchum, Idaho.
Among KSL's holdings is Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows ski resort in Lake Tahoe, Calif. "The two ski areas – Squaw Valley and Steamboat – are complementary," said Sandy Evans Hall, CEO/executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association. Hall is in a position to know, having served as the executive director of Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association prior to her move five years ago to the Lake Tahoe community that is home to Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows ski areas.
"Tahoe has a strong Olympic tradition," Hall said. Not only did Squaw Valley host the Winter Olympics in 1960, but two ski academies, Squaw Valley and Sugar Bowl, serve as incubators for training future Olympians.
Additionally, while ski season is an important part of Tahoe's economy, like Steamboat, summer tourism is a significant contributor to the economy. "Summer numbers exceed of winter," Hall said. "Tahoe has beautiful summers."
Vail Resorts operates three resorts in the Tahoe area: Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood. The proposed acquisition would give Aspen and Steamboat a foothold in the Nevada/California mountain resort industry. "This deal allows a stronger competitive position in the market," Hall said.
Tahoe's extremely heavy snowfall this past ski season ended five years of drought. "It will be good to have a familial relationship with Steamboat and Aspen snow-wise," Hall said. "It will help with risk management."
Noting that Aspen is an established high-end resort, Hall surmised that the sale would result in a "really good triumvirate." KSL combined forces this year with East West Partners (with close ties to Vail) and Aspen Skiing Co. to complete Base Village, a long-stalled project at Aspen Snowmass that will include a Limelight hotel.
Aspen, like Steamboat and Squaw Valley, has extensive programs to train young skiers. “While we're still trying to understand the nature of the transaction that includes Aspen Skiing Company LLC and KSL Capital Partners LLC, we know they clearly have a deep understanding of winter resort operations and, like the Steamboat Ski Area team, seem to appreciate the value that clubs like Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club bring to resorts, and the community,” says Jim Boyne, SSWSC executive director.
While it's way too early to know what the deal’s impact will be on Steamboat, there is much speculation. “A change in ownership of the ski area creates a sense of optimism about what can happen and what will be different," said City Council Member Scott Ford. "As a community, Steamboat Springs has been fortunate that the local ski area management understands the special relationship that exists between the ski area and the town that share a name. I'm confident that this understanding will continue."
Additional Information and Where to Find it
In connection with the proposed transaction, Intrawest intends to file relevant materials with the SEC, including Intrawest’s information statement in preliminary and definitive form. Stockholders of Intrawest are strongly advised to read all relevant documents filed with the SEC, including Intrawest’s information statement, because they will contain important information about the proposed transaction. These documents will be available at no charge on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. In addition, documents will also be available for free on Intrawest’s website at ir.intrawest.com.