Ski resort operator has a hill to climb: Naming itself
New firm doesn’t want to steal spotlight from sites
Vail Resorts. American Skiing Co. Aspen Skiing Co. Boyne USA. Triple Peaks. Intrawest. Peak Resorts.
North America’s largest ski resort operators have historically directed more creative effort into marketing and business plans than picking a company name — with the exception, arguably, of Utah’s Powdr Corp. Resort companies tend to be more imaginative in picking their stock market ticker symbol, such as MTN, SKIS and SNOW.
Don’t expect that to change as the newest giant in the resort world — the partnership between private equity firm KSL Capital Partners and Jim Crown, the owner of Aspen Skiing Co., which this year has acquired 13 ski areas — ponders a name.
“We are going to have a name soon so we can stop calling it ‘NewCo,’ ” said David Perry, the former Aspen Skiing exec who is captaining what is now the continent’s second- largest resort operator. “If we wait any longer, we are going to have to call it ‘OldCo.’ ”
The name will not dazzle. It will be largely business-to-business — something, Perry said, for employees to use internally and not necessarily a public-facing name.
That’s by design. The company is not seeking to mold its iconic resorts — such as Colorado’s Winter Park and Steamboat; California’s Mammoth and Squaw-Alpine; and Utah’s Deer Valley — to match a new corporate identity.
“The resorts in our family are the heroes. Each one is special and unique, and to me
there is real strength in honoring what is unique about each place and respecting their history and what they have worked to become. Not just the resorts but the communities,” Perry said. “We want the resorts and their communities to be in the spotlight, not secondary to the company name.”
Perry plans to follow a decentralized corporate model that allows each resort to operate much as it has before the change in ownership. Deer Valley, for example, is keeping longtime leader Bob Wheaton at the helm, just as Mammoth retains Rusty Gregory and Squaw-Alpine keeps Andy Wirth.
Since the new company acquired Intrawest last spring, it has set up shop in Intrawest’s former headquarters in the 18th Street Atrium in Lower Downtown Denver.
Perry said he expects to grow the staff a bit beyond Intrawest’s roughly 100 workers, but not by much. The new company is hammering out what tasks will be anchored in Den- ver and what will be handled by the individual resorts.
If the work is public facing or “core to the resort identity,” Perry said, it will be managed by the resorts locally. If it’s more business-focused and not in the public eye, then it would be administered in the LoDo office.
Perry calls the dispersed approach “head office light.”
“Our intention is to be smart about what services we have centralized and what’s at the resort level,” he said.
It has been more than six months of describing the new partnership with the long-winded label that mentions Denverbased KSL Capital Partners and the money behind Aspen Skiing Co. The rambling will end soon with a more succinct name.
“Everyone has been referring to it as the ‘UnVail’ or the ‘Yetto-be-named company’ — and it works. Everyone knows what it is,” said Rick Kahl, the resort industry veteran who directs trade magazine Ski Area Management. “It’s almost going to be anticlimactic when they do give it a name.”