Vail Buys Two Midwest Resorts

7118 view(s)

Publish Date


SAM Magazine—Dec. 6, 2012—Vail Resorts, Inc., will create its own skiers in the Midwest, announcing today that it has entered into agreements to purchase Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mount Brighton in Michigan, for total cash consideration of $20 million. According to the release, both ski areas serve major snow sports markets in the Midwest with more than 468,000 active skiers and snowboarders in the nearby Minneapolis-St. Paul and Detroit metropolitan areas. Vail Resorts plans to upgrade and enhance the experience at each resort and create opportunities to connect guests from each of these ski areas to its seven resorts in Colorado and Lake Tahoe through season pass and other lift ticket products. The season pass products will be available for the 2013/14 season.

"These acquisitions are part of a new strategy for Vail Resorts to drive season pass sales and build broader guest loyalty by looking at premier smaller ski areas located near major urban markets," says Rob Katz, chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts. "We plan to bring state-of-the-art racing, terrain parks, coaching and technology to the guest experience. We also will connect these urban ski areas to our world-class resorts in Colorado, California and Nevada with new season pass offerings, providing the chance to experience the best skiing and riding locally and in the West.”

And Vail has big plans for these small resorts including upgrading lodges, increasing snowmaking, creating new summer activities and much more. The Vail also will invest in each ski area’s infrastructure to improve parking and access to provide a more consistent experience throughout the season. Vail will be outlining its plans in the coming months and meeting with the local communities to seek their input.

Nearing its 50th anniversary, Afton Alps, founded by the Augustine family, has 48 trails on nearly 300 acres, 18 lifts, four base areas, night skiing and riding, tubing and an 18-hole golf course.

Open since 1960, Mount Brighton features 26 trails on 130 acres, six lifts, night skiing and riding and an 18-hole golf course.





Sounds like a good idea to me. what could go wrong?

The future meets the past.....

This is a great idea and one that only a handful of resort conglomerates can pull off successfully.... Vail being foremost. Not only does it work logically and operationally, and not only are the marketing and "affinity-type" benefits self-evident (not just season pass sales but the whole ball of snow), but the costs are relatively low and the potential returns on investment excellent and self-sustaining. There are literally scores of local, long-standing and well established - perhaps financially struggling, perhaps not so much - ski areas located within the fringe of sizeable urban markets throughout the United States and Canada. These little bastions of snow sport lovers cater to families and diehards who will think that heaven just came to earth once Vail or other flagship ski resort conglomerates/operators hit the local scene and create a greatly improved guest experience... together with awesomely tempting season pass and travel options at their major league resorts. Will this trigger a new dash towards resort and micro-resort/local ski area aggregation? Could be. This time around, and with much more bite-size (and long ignored) acquisitions available, let's hope the gigantic financial implosions of the past don't come around to haunt the industry. I really don't think they will... not at all.

The past meets the future

This is just the kind of feeder routes that Carl Swanback talked about in the late 80's calling it, "The logical marketing alignment for the future".... Admittedly, most in our company dismissed the idea but in retrospect Swanback had a lot of wild ideas, at the time, that have since come to be. This will not only be a great investment for Vail, but also for the ski indutsry as a whole.