resort mergers 

The Intrawest takeover of Whistler Mountain and Copper Mountain may influence the U.S. Justice Department’s ruling on the Vail-Ralcorp merger, according to reports in Colorado. Seth Masia, writing for SkiNet Report, says some industry insiders have speculated that with Intrawest now a presence in Colorado it may be easier for the Justice Department to allow Keystone, Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin to come under the Vail umbrella. However, others in Summit County, Colorado are suggesting the Justice Department may approve Vail’s acquisition of either Breckenridge or Keystone, but not both. A decision on the Vail-Ralcorp merger was expected before Dec. 31, the contracted expiration date for the merger agreement. Intrawest is developing real estate at Keystone in partnership with Ralcorp. Hugh Smythe, president of Intrawest’s Resort Operations Group, said at the time of the Whistler-Copper merger last week that Intrawest was not done acquiring ski areas and would be watching the outcome of the proposed Vail-Ralcorp merger closely. With the acquisition of Whistler and Copper Intrawest now controls about 7 per cent of lift ticket sales in North America, or 4.5 million skier visits annually. Smythe does not expect any problems from the Canadian Competition Tribunal or the U.S. Justice Department with regard to the latest Intrawest acquisitions. Meanwhile, the consolidation trend in the ski industry continues, with Booth Creek Inc. of Colorado last week purchasing the four ski areas that make up The Pass on Snowqualmie Pass in Washington. The four areas, Snowqualmie, Alpental, Ski Acres and Hyak, are not destination ski areas but they do produce almost 500,000 skier days annually and draw heavily from the Seattle market. As well, the four areas have a large amount of private land available for development. Booth Creek is owned by the Gillett family. George Gillett Jr. was owner of Vail Associates from 1985 to 1992. In the last year Booth Creek has purchased Mount Cranmore and Waterville Valley in New Hampshire, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Bear Valley in California. SkiNet Report says the Intrawest and Booth Creek purchases are the latest in a string of consolidations in the ski industry, with well over $1 billion in transactions taking place in just the last month.

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