Aspen Skiing Co. execs say ski resorts will retain independence after mega-deals | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Skiing Co. execs say ski resorts will retain independence after mega-deals

In case it got lost during last week's abrupt buying binge, Aspen Skiing Co.'s top two executives said in an online post Thursday that the four local ski areas as well as 12 new sister resorts will retain their individual identities after they are folded together.

Skico Chief Executive Officer Mike Kaplan and Chief Operating Officer David Perry wrote a season-ending thank-you to the community, which appeared on the company website Thursday morning.

They noted that the Roaring Fork Valley's distinctive character has helped form their company over the years and set it apart from competitors.

"We've been thinking a lot about this idea, of how the valley's long-standing sense of character and place informs Aspen Skiing Company's product and values, as we have entered into a partnership to acquire other ski areas," their note said.

Their post reassured the new resorts under the Aspen umbrella that they will retain their unique character. "We'll promote our way of doing business, but without any expectation that our new sister resorts should abandon any of their own unique attributes of culture and place," Kaplan and Perry wrote. "Quite the opposite, actually."

An affiliate of Skico joined with an affiliate of Denver-based private equity group KSL Capital Partners last week on two acquisition blockbusters. First, they negotiated a deal to buy Intrawest Resort Holdings, which owns Steamboat and Winter Park, among other properties. Two days later, they acquired Mammoth Resorts, securing four resorts that draw on the lucrative Southern California market.

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The deals are scheduled to close before the end of the third quarter for more than $2 billion combined.

KSL brought Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski areas to the mix.

The Crown family of Chicago will keep ownership of the four Aspen-Snowmass ski areas separate, but the note from Kaplan and Perry shows all ski areas will be working together.

They said they expect Aspen Skiing Co.'s growth "to create opportunities for our employees and the community, and that the endeavor will ultimately benefit the sport of skiing/snowboarding at large."

An end-of-season note has been rare but not unheard of during the Kaplan era at Skico.

Kaplan and Perry also talked about challenges (low snow) and rewards (World Cup Finals) of the season. They said company officials in internal conversations labeled 2016-17 "the year of overcoming the impossible."

Without a fortuitous storm right before Christmas and near-record snow during January, this "might have been remembered as the winter that wasn't" at Aspen and Snowmass, they said.

"Of course, as all core skiers and snowboarders know, there's no such thing as a bad ski day," they wrote. "Still, this season offered a stark reminder of our changing climate — and of the increasing importance of snowmaking for a ski town."

Skico is working on a plan to expand snowmaking farther up Aspen Mountain.

scondon@aspentimes.com

CLOSING WEEKEND AT ASPEN MOUNTAIN

Bonus week on Aspen Mountain comes to a close Sunday.

The mountain was scheduled to close April 16, but Aspen Skiing Co. extended it for a week due to good snow coverage on top. The lifts will operate 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

All season passes are valid for closing weekend as they were during the regular season. Lift tickets are $69 per day for adults and $45 for children, teens and seniors. Extension days for the Flex, Adult Classic and Adult Mountain Collective passes are being sold for $32. Passholders from other resorts can ski for $39 if they present their pass.

Events on both days of the weekend include Extreme Slip and Slide at the top of Aspen Mountain from noon to 3 p.m. “Bring your swimsuit and towel,” the promotion said.

High altitude hot tubbing will be offered at the deck of the Sundeck from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will also be a DJ on the deck from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and giant beer pong 2 to 5 p.m.

To top events off, there will be Mountaintop Speed Dating at the Sundeck at 1 p.m. Sunday only.