This winter will mark a new era for Deer Valley Resort
The resort was recently acquired
After a banner powder season, Park City is gearing up for another year of — hopefully — big dumps. Rental shops are gearing up, condos are being re-roofed and painted, and restaurants will be staffing up.
It seems like business as usual, but it is not. A different type of “dry powder” is in town, according to Fortune Magazine: private equity firms un-invested capital.
On August 21, Deer Valley Resort surprised nearly everyone when they announced the sale of the resort to private equity firms, creating an as-yet unnamed company. Solitude Mountain Resort was not part of the sale. The consolidation of Park City Mountain and Canyons resort by Vail Resorts a few years back was huge news in town, and this sale seems to move Park City further into the big leagues.
Bill Malone, the director of the Park City Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau says of the sale, “It was probably a good time to sell. I’m excited about there being a good lift ticket product to compete against Epic. It’s also attractive for our international guests, because now they can get both Park City and Aspen.”
Malone adds, “Having these two resorts is like having an American and a National League team in the same town. And, after 30 years of the same owners, things change.”
For the past 36 years, Deer Valley has been different. Founder Edgar Stern wanted clients to be treated as they might at a five-star hotel, with free parking and ski storage, finely-groomed corduroy, lift ticket caps, a restriction on snowboards, terrific food and all the small touches that have made this resort an elegant place to ski. The resort has a total of 21 chairlifts, 101 ski runs, six bowls, 12 restaurants, 300 annual inches of powder, three day lodges, over 2,000 acres of alpine skiing, and luxury accommodations. The children’s center, and ski school, are unparalleled too.
Who are these new owners? Buyers KSL Capital Partners and Henry Crown and Company are not new to ski resort ownership, having nearly 20 between them.
The new Deer Valley president and COO, David Perry, said in a released statement, “We could not be more pleased that Deer Valley Resort will be part of our new company, and we look forward to working with the staff and Park City community to carry on the traditions that make it so special.”
And for now, at least for the next season, Deer Valley will remain unchanged. “There are no plans to change Deer Valley’s offerings or programs.”
Bob Wheaton, who has been at Deer Valley since it opened, will continue as general manager. “We are thrilled to join this impressive portfolio with 12 other resorts and are excited about the opportunities this transaction will create for our guests, staff, and the community of Park City. Deer Valley is a special place and being part of its growth has been one of the great joys of my life,” he continued.
Having these two resorts is like having an American and a National League team in the same town. And, after 30 years of the same owners, things change.”
KSL Capital Partners currently operates 13 resorts, tallying over 9 million skier visits per year; 15 percent of the total ski days projected for the 2017-18 season. It owns Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Snow Summit, Bear Mountain, June Mountain, Blue Mountain in Ontario, Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia, Steamboat, Winter Park in Colorado, Quebec’s Mont Tremblant and Canadian Mountain Holidays in Alberta. Henry Crown and Company currently owns Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk.
It might be a perfect fit, and possibly create a more competitive market with Vail Resorts, their chief rival in the ski industry. Vail is a publicly traded company whose stock price has risen nearly 300 percent in the past four years. Their 15-resort Epic Pass has proven popular, with 600,000 sold in 2016. It’s possible that a competing pass, such as the Mountain Collective, might be offered by Deer Valley’s new owners.
The purchase of Deer Valley also includes vested development rights on the 1,250-car parking lot at Snow Park as well, which could see 209 units, parking for 2,500 cars and 40,000 square feet of commercial space. But with a major expansion in Wasatch County – the Mayflower area – these plans may remain unrealized for a few years until that project reaches completion.
Change comes quickly in these high alpine valleys, and new opportunities will appear as older ones’ eclipse. “The Deer Valley brand and culture is very strong,” says Park City Manager Diane Foster. “We will just wait and see.”
Editor’s note: The subhead of a previous version of this article misstated the company that acquired Deer Valley Resort.