Vail Resorts agrees to buy Whistler Blackcomb
August 9, 2016
The Vail Resorts empire has gotten larger.
The ski resort behemoth, which owns Park City Mountain Resort, announced Monday that it has agreed to purchase Whistler Blackcomb (British Columbia, Canada), the largest ski area in North America and often considered one of the finest resorts in the West. The deal stipulates that Vail Resorts will acquire all shares of Whistler Blackcomb's stock, worth roughly $1.1 billion in U.S. dollars, while Whistler's shareholders will receive $13.33 in cash for each stock, plus 0.09 shares of Vail Resorts stock.
Vail Resorts intends to add Whistler Blackcomb to its popular Epic Pass in the 2017-2018 ski season In Park City, that means skiers or snowboarders who purchase the passes will be able to use them to ski at Whistler Blackcomb. Likewise, Canadian skiers may be more apt to take a trip to Park City, said Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts, in an interview.
"We feel like it's a huge opportunity for everyone who buys an Epic Pass in Park City," he said.
Bill Malone, president of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said Monday that he was still absorbing the news. His initial reaction, however, echoed Katz's sentiment that the deal could allow Park City to tap into the Canadian market, which has traditionally been hesitant to ski outside of Canada.
He said Vail Resorts' purchase last year of Perisher, the largest ski resort in Australia, has allowed the Chamber/Bureau to make significant inroads with Australian visitors. He anticipates a similar opportunity in Canada.
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"We look at that and go, 'Who else is a customer that could enjoy coming to Park City?'" Malone said. "We've always looked at Whistler as one of our chief competitors from a destination standpoint. … But now, does that Toronto skier that used to go to Whistler, are we on their wish list now that (the Epic Pass) is good?"
The deal is the latest in a string of high-profile acquisitions for Vail Resorts. In addition to purchasing Park City Mountain Resort and Perisher, the company added Wisconsin's Wilmot Mountain earlier this year. Katz said those acquisitions have boosted visitation to the company's other resorts, and he expects the Whistler deal to provide a similar boost.
But more than that, he said, the diversification the deal represents makes the company's future even brighter.
"It adds stability to our company by having greater geographic diversity, both in having resorts in a number of different places and currency diversity," he said. "All of our resorts benefit from that stability and long-term security."
Whistler Blackcomb recently announced plans to spend roughly $260 million in capital improvements, ranging from new ski lifts to terrain upgrades to lodge renovations. Katz said Vail Resorts will continue with those plans, and Malone speculated the purchasing power the company will have from buying in bulk could lead to further improvements at PCMR.
Katz acknowledged that strategy would make upgrades at PCMR cheaper, but did not say whether the company is planning improvements at the resort.
"The bigger opportunity is to continue to develop the network that we're building and make it more and more attractive to people," he said.