News that ski industry giant Vail Resorts of Colorado has agreed to acquire Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort has become the talk of the town in Ludlow.
“It’s the way the market and the business of skiing is going,” observed skier Janet Salem. “So to me, it’s not a surprise. And hopefully, the new group will do a good job.”
The $82-million deal announced Monday also includes Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire and a third destination out West—Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado.
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In a separate $67-million transaction, Vail Resorts announced it is also purchasing Stevens Pass Resort in Washington.
Both deals are subject to certain adjustments, closing conditions, and approvals, Vail noted in its announcement.
Some in Ludlow are worried about possible impacts from Okemo, a family-owned ski area, going to a big corporation that has the marketing muscle to attract even more visitors, said longtime resident Karen Sherer.
“I’m not very happy,” Sherer told NBC 10 Boston. “It’s going to be crazy. Traffic is going to be totally screwed up. It does bring us jobs, but it brings us headaches, too.”
A year ago, Vail Resorts purchased mountain operations of Vermont’s famous Stowe Mountain Resort. Over time, that transaction did mean some changes.
Several Stowe insiders, who did not want to be identified, told NBC 10 Boston that certain staff positions, such as accounting jobs, were centralized to Vail’s home office if they could have been done elsewhere.
Prices for single-day lift tickets rose, the industry sources added.
However, season passes to Stowe became much more affordable, and a bonus of Vail’s Epic Pass, as it is known, is that it includes access to the company’s network of other highly-regarded resorts. The trade group Ski Vermont said that was a major pro-consumer development to come out of Vail’s arrival in the state.
“I think it’s a win for skiers and riders,” Ski Vermont’s Molly Mahar said of Vail acquiring the Vermont destinations.
Mahar also noted that the lower season pass prices at Stowe caused other resorts’ pricing to become more competitive.
She also predicted that her tourism-dependent state will benefit from more travelers, through additional rooms and meals tax receipts and consumer spending.
A Vail Resorts spokesperson told NBC 10 Boston that the company will invest $35-million in its four newly-announced properties over the next few years. The spokesperson said the company will work with stakeholders and knowledgeable people at each of the resorts after the sales close to identify specific capital improvements.
“Vail is a world-class resort operator,” Mahar said. “And the fact they are re-investing in the state of Vermont is very positive.”
Vail’s spokesperson said its New Hampshire and Vermont purchases, along with Stowe, will create a regional hub that it hopes will offer more options and better experiences for its guests.
The Mueller family, which owned Okemo, Mount Sunapee, and Crested Butte, said in a statement Monday that the decision to sell to Vail Resorts was very hard for them, because they had so many friendships and positive relationships with members of the communities where they operated their ski areas.
The Muellers said in their prepared remarks they were not naïve in understanding that changes would likely come to their properties following the sale, but added that ultimately, they decided moving forward with the sale would be the best option for their resorts and guests.
The Muellers also said they believe the sale will ensure strong futures for the communities surrounding the ski destinations.
Molly Mahar of Ski Vermont praised the Mueller family and their 36 years of dedication to the Vermont skiing and riding industry, and for having built Okemo into the four-season destination it is today.
“They’ve done many great things for Vermont skiing, and it’s sort of an end to an era,” Mahar told NBC 10 Boston. “Props to them, because they’ve done an excellent job.”