Ski re­sort op­er­a­tor has a hill to climb: Nam­ing it­self

New firm doesn’t want to steal spot­light from sites

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Ja­son Blevins

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.”

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