Vail Resort to Buy Crested Butte
● By Deb Olsen
Reaction was mixed in Crested Butte to the announcement late last week that Vail Resorts has entered into an agreement to buy the southern Colorado ski area, as well as Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, Vermont and Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire.
Triple Peaks currently owns and operates the three resorts. Its principals are Tim and Diane Mueller, along with their children Ethan and Erica. The Muellers attempted to purchase the Steamboat Ski Area in 2002, but then-owners American Skiing Company did not show up at the closing table. As a teenager, Erica Mueller trained with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club snowboard team.
Soon after the Steamboat sale fell apart, the Muellers purchased Crested Butte, an out-of-the-way resort with a reputation for its laid-back independent attitude and steep, deep terrain. Because of Vail’s already-large ski industry holdings, its resources would likely impact the community. The Muellers have said they hope the sale will allow Creste Butte to continue its steady growth and secure its position in a changing marketplace.
A few Crested Butte residents expressed concern to reporter Alan Best of Mountain Town News that corporate ownership could change the self-described funky nature of the community. But Vail Resorts vice president Chris Jarnot told Crested Butte News that the new owners have no desire to change the local culture.
“We already have a Vail and we don’t want to buy another one,” Jarnot said. “Crested Butte is so unique and different, with strong individuality. That’s the attraction of Crested Butte that appeals to us. Our perception is that the community as a whole is very distinct in attitude and feel. I’m surprised that people think we could change that or even that we would want to. That is not what we want to do.”
“Crested Butte is what it is because of the people,” Ethan Mueller told the Crested Butte News. “Vail can’t change that nor do they want to. They’ve been very upfront that they don’t want to homogenize everything, which is what people are afraid of. They recognize their opportunity is to diversify. They know there is a customer out there who wants a Crested Butte and they want a product they can sell that person. That’s their intent. So they want Crested Butte to be Crested Butte, with a few more people to come and see Crested Butte.”
The sale is anticipated to close later this summer. During the transition period prior to closing, the Mueller family and the three resort leadership teams will continue to operate each area while collaborating with Vail Resorts on the transition.
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.