Vail to buy Stowe ski operations for $50 million

MONTPELIER — Stowe Mountain Resort, one of the state’s most iconic ski areas, is slated to be sold to Colorado-based Vail Resorts for $50 million in a deal that could reshape the ski industry in Vermont and throughout New England.

The two companies announced the deal Tuesday morning, but it is subject to state approval in Vermont. The sale, which before Tuesday had been a persistent rumor for months, is expected to close in the next several months.

Stowe Resort (Courtesy photo)

Stowe Resort (Courtesy photo)

Vail will acquire all of the assets related to Stowe’s ski operations from AIG Global Real Estate, including base area skier services such as food and beverage, retail and rental equipment, lift ticket offices and ski and snowboard school facilities at Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak. Other assets, including the Stowe Mountain Lodge, Stowe Mountain Club, Stowe Country Club and other real estate will be retained by Mt. Mansfield Company, Inc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AIG.

“We’re thrilled to add Stowe Mountain Resort to our family of world-class mountain resorts. With the investments in both mountain infrastructure and base area facilities that AIG has made over the years, Stowe Mountain Resort has become the premier, high-end resort for East Coast skiers and snowboarders. We look forward to working with AIG to continue enhancing the guest experience and to ensure the resort’s long-term success,” Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, said in a statement.

When finalized, the deal will roll Stowe into Vail’s stable of resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe region of California and Nevada; and, Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada.

State officials said Tuesday it is too early to determine what tax implications could arise for the state. There could be little impact on state revenue because little real estate is changing hands.

“A lot will depend on the details of the sale. The most likely impact to the Vermont Tax Department will be seen in the Property Transfer Tax, which is 1.25 percent of the consideration paid for land and buildings, and an additional 0.2 percent surcharge established for the Clean Water Fund. That tax liability is due at closing,” Tax Commissioner Kaj Samsom told the Vermont Press Bureau.

In its announcement, Vail Resorts said it plans to integrate Stowe into its existing Epic Pass for the 2017-2018 winter season. The Epic Pass will allow people to ski at Stowe as well as Vail Resorts other resorts for significantly less. An adult season pass to Stowe purchased after Nov. 6, 2016 costs $2,313, according to the resort’s website. The Epic Pass, meanwhile, which offers skiing at Vail’s properties, cost about $800 this year.

Parker Riehle, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, said Stowe’s inclusion in the Epic Pass could force other Vermont resorts to respond in a similar way.

Parker Riehle

Parker Riehle

“It will be a very interesting dynamic, because it is true that Stowe will be on the Epic Pass, which is a greatly discounted, multi-resort, multi-use pass that’s incredibly successful and popular,” he said. “You might see a resort like Sugarbush, really the closest nearby competitor, and then Jay Peak further north, they may try to get on board with the Mountain Collective pass program, which is similar to the Epic Pass but with a different group of resorts.”

Rep. Adam Greshin, an independent from Warren and a minority owner of the Sugarbush Resort, said the sale of Stowe “creates a new level of competitor in the eastern market.” He said Sugarbush and other resorts may be forced to reconsider pricing and operations as a result.

“There’s no product like the Epic Pass currently in the east. Unquestionably, this would be new, and there is potential to reprice many of the current passes that the resorts offer,” he said.

But Stowe also has limited capacity and may not be able to accommodate a sharp increase in season pass sales at the resort, Greshin said.

“I think there’s also a question of whether Stowe can handle capacity. If their concept is to sell a lot of Epic Passes and generate traffic and revenue to Stowe, I would question whether that’s the best method. It may be that their idea is simply to capture those Stowe skiers for markets out west.”

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, said she believes the town and the resort can handle additional traffic.

“I think there needs to be some thought into how exactly that might happen, but I think once they get in and see it — I’m sure they’ve done their due diligence — they’ll know how it will work best. They have a great deal of experience all over, so I think they can bring that experience here to Stowe,” she said.

Scheuermann said the sale of Stowe will be good for the town and state.

“I think Vail Resorts brings with it something that bumps us up to the next level as far as ski resort operations,” she said. “I think we’re really excited.”

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