Broomfield, CO – First Colorado, then Tahoe, now Minnesota and Michigan.
Colorado-based ski resort operator Vail Resorts, Inc. announced today that it has entered into agreements to purchase two urban ski areas in the Midwest, Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mount Brighton in Michigan, for total cash consideration of $20 million. Both ski areas serve major snow sports markets in the Midwest with more than 468,000 active skiers and snowboarders in the nearby Minneapolis-St. Paul and Detroit metropolitan areas.
Vail Resorts plans to upgrade each resort and create opportunities to connect guests from each of these ski areas to its seven existing resorts in Colorado and Lake Tahoe through season pass and other lift ticket products.
“We are thrilled to welcome Afton Alps and Mount Brighton to the Vail Resorts family. These acquisitions are part of a new strategy for Vail Resorts to drive season pass sales and build broader guest loyalty by looking at premier smaller ski areas located near major urban markets. We plan to bring state-of-the-art racing, terrain parks, coaching and technology to the guest experience. We also will connect these urban ski areas to our world-class resorts in Colorado, California and Nevada with new season pass offerings, providing the chance to experience the best skiing and riding locally and in the West,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.
By purchasing two breeder ski areas to feed clientele to its western destination resorts, Vail Resorts has pursued a new branch to the company’s vertical integration that already includes not only the ski mountains themselves but also resort lodging, village restaurants, rental and retail, an airport shuttle company to get guests to the resorts, and even two snow sports media outlets, OnTheSnow.com and Skiinfo.uk.
“Afton Alps’ great terrain and strong heritage built by the Augustine family make it an ideal ski area for our entry into the Minneapolis-St. Paul market. Similarly, Mount Brighton is a great area for beginners and advanced skiers alike in the Detroit, Lansing and Ann Arbor markets with a strong snow sports tradition built over decades by the Tippett and Bruhn families. We plan to honor the important legacy of each ski area for their loyal guests while investing to enhance the experience in the years to come.” Katz added.
Upgrades planned by Vail Resorts include redesigned and updated terrain parks, improved coaching and instruction for all levels of skiers and riders, dedicated racing programs, expanded dining and entertainment options at the base area, and integrated technology and social media programs like EpicMix, EpicMix Photo and EpicMix Racing. The company also will invest in each ski area’s infrastructure to improve snowmaking, parking and access to provide a more consistent experience throughout the season, as well as review opportunities to add new summer activities.
Nearing its 50th anniversary, Afton Alps is the largest ski area near a major city in the Midwest with 48 trails on nearly 300 acres, 18 lifts, four base areas, night skiing and riding, tubing and an 18-hole golf course. Afton Alps is located 33 miles from more than two million people and more than 161,000 skiers and snowboarders in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.
Open since 1960, Mount Brighton features 26 trails on 130 acres, six lifts, night skiing and riding and an 18-hole golf course. The ski area is located 43 miles from Detroit and is within reach of more than four million people and more than 307,000 skiers and snowboarders in the Detroit, Lansing and Ann Arbor metropolitan areas.
Vail Resorts is planning season pass products for both Afton Alps and Mount Brighton in time for the 2013-14 season pass sales period, beginning in March 2013. In the meantime, to welcome both ski areas into the Vail Resorts family, Afton Alps and Mount Brighton season pass holders will immediately receive a 25-percent discount off of the window rate on lift tickets at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood this season.
Vail Resorts expects to complete the purchase of both Midwest ski areas within the next month, subject to certain conditions.