There may be an emerging trend in the ongoing efforts of Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL/Squaw Valley to build a bigger ski resort empire, and its called the Mountain Collective.
Aspen and KSL revealed April 10 their intention to purchase Steamboat Ski Resort with the other five resorts in the Intrawest group for $1.5 billion. They followed up that news Wednesday with another blockbuster announcement of their intentions to also acquire Mammoth Resorts (sale price not revealed), including Mammoth Mountain in the Sierra Range of California just south of Yosemite, along with Snow Summit, Bear Mountain and June Mountain.
The Mountain Collective is a collaboration among 16 resorts under varying ownerships who have come together to market multi-resort passes. Notably, Steamboat and the other other Intrawest resorts are not part of Mountain Collective. However, Aspen, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows and Mammoth are.
Steamboat currently collaborates on the Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus, which offers unlimited access to Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain and Eldora Mountain Resort, plus six days at Steamboat, three days at Crested Butte, three days at Alyeska Resort (Alaska) and seven days each at six international resorts.
That pass remains in place for the 2017-18 ski season regardless of the anticipated sale closing involving Steamboat and Winter Park in early autumn.
It remains to be seen if the Aspen/KSL shopping spree will continue, but it was Realtor Jon Wade of the Steamboat Group who speculated Monday that if the two ski area operators are serious about competing with Vail Resorts and the Epic Pass, they couldn't settle for stopping with the acquisition of Intrawest.
"If you're going to compete with Vail, (Intrawest) isn't enough, because Vail is going to keep on going," with more acquisitions of its own, Wade said. He also suggested the resorts in the Mountain Collective might serve as a roadmap for additional purchases.
Other heavy hitters in the collective are Telluride, Sun Valley, Jackson Hole, Taos and the legendary Utah resorts in Little Cottonwood Canyon — Snowbird and Alta.
Former longtime Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. top executive Chris Diamond observed this week that Vail's Epic Pass remains dominant in Western Canada. If the Intrawest acquisition is consummated, it would give Aspen/KSL a toehold with newly acquired Canadian Mountain Holidays, which describes itself as the largest heli-skiing adventure operator in the world.
Coincidentally, Western Canadian resorts, Banff Sunshine, Revelstoke and Lake Louise, are all in the Mountain Collective.