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Patrick Thorne

12 Apr 17

Aspen Buys Operator of Steamboat, Winter Park & 4 Other Resorts

Patrick Thorne

12 Apr 17

A new American ski resorts group has been formed with the unexpected news that Colorado’s Aspen resort has purchased the six ski areas in Canada and the US owned by the once mighty Intrawest group.

Aspen’s purchase, valued at $1.5 billion, has been made in partnership with an investment house called KSL Partners who are also based in Colorado.  They already own Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley as part of a $7.5 billion portfolio of resorts and hotels.

It is not yet clear how the new group will operate, whether it will have a group name, whether all nine resorts will operate jointly in some way and whether the name Intrawest will disappear like the American Skiing Company before it.

The purchase does mean that three Colorado resorts – Aspen, Steamboat (Pictured above) and Winter Park are now under one owner, rivalling the four Colorado resort owned by the existing multi-resort owning giant of the ski industry Vail Resorts.

The new group’s other resorts purchased from Intrawest are all on the Eastern side of the North American continent and include two of Eastern Canada biggest resorts, Tremblant in Quebec and Blue Mountain in Ontario, as well as Stratton in Vermont and Snowshoe in West Virginia.

Intrawest was once the darling of the North American ski industry. Formed in BC Canada in the 1970s it rose to fame with the success of Whistler Blackcomb and went on to create base resorts at many leading resorts in North America where the concept was quite new at many of the country’s famous ski areas – which had famous ski centres but no resort directly at their bases.  The success of some of the big resort groups today, which are based as much or more on property than ski slope operations, can be traced back to the Intrawest model.

At its height in the late 1990s and early 2000s the company owned or operated around a dozen resorts and had moved across the Atlantic to create Arc 1950 in Ls Arcs, a resort in Flaine and even operate the Madrid snowdome.

It was sold to a finance hose in 2006 shortly before the global economic crash, after which its new owners sold assets including Whistler and moved its base south of the border to Colorado.