Sale of Steamboat ski area marks more change in state industry


Steamboat Ski Area has new owners and now is part of a 12-resort package, which includes Mammoth Mountain and Squaw Valley plus the heli-ski operation, Canadian Mountain Holidays. Photo – Marty Foubister, Creative Commons 

The announcement Monday of the sale of Steamboat Ski Area, one of this state’s iconic (can I say that? It’s terribly over-used but in this case actually means something) ) resorts brings yet another major player into the ski biz in Colorado.

It also contributes to the rapid extinction of locally owned ski areas in the state.

The sale to the joint venture of KSL Capital Partners and an affiliate of Henry Crown and Company, along with the completion by the joint venture of the purchase of Mammoth Resorts in California, combines 12 mountain resorts, among them Winter Park, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and the four Mammoth Mountain resorts plus other holdings, and an estimated 6 million annual skier visits. That’s a bunch o’ skiers, boarders and winter users.

Henry Crown and the Crown family, as you may or may not know, is the owner of Aspen Skiing Company, which includes Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk. But don’t expect your Steamboat pass to get you onto Aspen slopes, at least not this winter. A report on the Steamboat website said the Aspen/Snowmass resorts and properties will remain separate from the latest dealings.

It’s not like the Steamboat or Mammoth sales were unexpected; many of the preliminary details of the pending purchases of Intrawest and Mammoth Resorts were made public in April. Nor was Steamboat sold because the resort is hurting financially or standing still in its quest to meet skiers’ wants. In fact, with an expansion planned for the Pioneer Ridge area and hopes for a new gondola into Bashor Bowl, Steamboat seems ripe for a new owner with deep pockets.

What remains are concerns as to how being owned by another aggressive investment company will affect Steamboat, meaning not only the resort but Steamboat Springs the city as well.  Intrawest Resorts Holdings, Inc., the former owner of Steamboat, wouldn’t have sold had it not thought the sale would bring a profit, which is how investment funds work.

Which means more changes at Steamboat should be expected.

Last May KSL joined with Crown in plans to acquire Intrawest Resorts Holdings, Inc., Steamboat’s now-former owner and the purchase of Mammoth Resorts, the owner of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Snow Summit, Bear Mountain and June Mountain, all in California. Monday’s announcement finalized all the dealings.

All of which makes the whole ski world become that much more corporate.





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