Deal of the Year

THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU.

SKI - - WEST - —Ja­son Blevins

At the start of 2017, Vail Re­sorts was the in­vi­o­lable boss of ski­ing. And ar­guably had been the boss for at least a decade or so.

But by that spring, the undis­puted crown of the planet’s largest re­sort op­er­a­tor was usurped by an un­likely pair­ing of KSL Cap­i­tal Part­ners and own­ers of the Aspen Ski­ing Co. The KSL-Aspen duo dropped a cool $1.5 bil­lion for In­trawest’s six re­sorts and the next day, picked up South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s Mam­moth re­sort—the busiest in that state by far. Then in a sur­prise move in late Au­gust, KSL-Aspen ac­quired Deer Val­ley, Utah, set­ting the stage for an old-fash­ioned ski re­sort range war.

The win­ners of that war, how­ever, have al­ready been de­cided. It’s us. The skiers and rid­ers. With a yet-to-be-an­nounced KSL-Aspen sea­son pass that will ri­val Vail Re­sorts’ game-chang­ing Epic Pass, it’s very likely that by 2018, a pair of $900-ish sea­son passes of­fered by the two largest re­sort com­pa­nies in the world will get us onto the best slopes in North Amer­ica … and way be­yond.

The De­part­ment of Jus­tice took a peek at the mas­sive deal and de­cided this new du­op­oly did not breach anti-trust laws, paving the way for a sort of re­sort arms race that ben­e­fits sea­son-pass buy­ers from coast to coast but blasts the wal­lets of walk-up ticket pur­chasers.

Now the fun be­gins. We can ex­pect Aspen-es­que up­grades and im­prove­ments at re­sorts like Mam­moth, Win­ter Park, Steam­boat, and Trem­blant, all of which have seen nom­i­nal in­vest­ment in re­cent years. Will the KSL duo take a page from the Vail Re­sort play­book and add even more top-flight re­sorts in the com­ing years? We’d bet on it.

Wasn’t it a lit­tle more than a decade ago that in­dus­try watch­ers be­moaned the grow­ing role of re­sort condo sales dom­i­nat­ing a sport, which at that time was mostly an up­hill trans­porta­tion busi­ness? Not any­more. Vail Re­sorts doesn’t lean much on real es­tate and the new KSL-Aspen team is promis­ing a sim­i­lar fo­cus on ski­ing—but we’ll see.

We’re about to wit­ness a slick, big-mar­ket­ing bud­geted, four-sea­son race to sell a ridicu­lous num­ber of passes. This level of com­pe­ti­tion with this level of fund­ing hasn’t re­ally hap­pened be­fore.

For that, we can thank Vail Re­sorts for set­ting the ta­ble. And the KSL-Aspen duo for serv­ing the feast. We hope you’re hun­gry.

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