What do you do when you already own the biggest, most popular ski resorts on the continent? Buy more ski resorts, of course.
In the early 1960s, Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton founded what would ultimately become Vail Resorts with one goal in mind: creating the next great ski mountain. Nearly six decades later, there are many great ski mountains—but it’s starting to feel like Vail owns all of them.
Through a series of acquisitions and leasing agreements over the past decade, Vail Resorts has grown from the owner of four of the state’s most popular mountains (Vail, Keystone, Breckenridge, and Beaver Creek) to a corporate behemoth with 37 properties across North America and Australia, and partnership agreements in Europe and Japan.
Since the mid-1990s—and particularly in the past 10 years—Vail Resorts has acquired so many mountains—including Whistler, Park City, and Crested Butte, just to name a few—that some have even joked the Broomfield-based company might as well buy the rights to all North American snowfall, securing their grip on the ski industry and bringing them one step closer to total world domination.
Most recently, Vail acquired Peak Resorts, owner of 17 properties in the Midwest and Northeast—including Mt. Snow in Vermont and Attitash in New Hampshire—meaning Epic Pass holders can now ski at nearly 80 resorts this season. Because it can be hard to keep track of every Vail acquisition, we created this complete timeline to understand how Vail became the most ubiquitous brand in ski resort management:
January 3, 1997
After its parent company, Gillett Holdings, went bankrupt six years earlier, private-equity firm Apollo Global acquires Vail in 1992. Five years later, in an effort to begin building its empire and much to the chagrin of skiing purists in the Centennial State, the newly publicly traded Vail Resorts acquires Breckenridge and Keystone from Ralston Purina (yes, the pet food company). The $310 million deal briefly includes Arapahoe Basin, but the U.S. Justice Department argues it violates antitrust laws because Vail, whose properties accounted for 12 percent of all skier days in Colorado, would triple that number with the addition of all three resorts. The DOJ orders A-Basin be sold to a third party at the beginning of the year and it has been independent ever since.
March 26, 2002
The Ottoman—er, Vail Resorts—Empire expands once again, this time outside of Colorado. Heavenly Resort in Lake Tahoe, where musician Sonny Bono (yes, that one) died after hitting a tree in 1998, comes under the Vail Resorts umbrella for a cool $102 million.
March 19, 2008
Now with five major resorts under its belt, Vail throws a knuckleball into the ski industry with the introduction of its “Epic Pass.” At $569, the annual pass gives holders an unlimited number of days at its quintet of ski areas. Industry leaders call them foolish; instead, they revolutionize the North American ski market.
Similar to many of its peers, Vail was hit hard by the fallout of the 2008 economic recession, with plummeting occupancy rates and decreased customer spending dragging its stock price down 45 percent. As it digs out of the financial hole, Vail expands to Lake Tahoe, where it buys resorts on the northwest end (Northstar) and southern end (Kirkwood) of the lake to go along with the aforementioned Heavenly.
A section of the Northern Hemisphere is never enough, so Vail Resorts completes several new expansions:
Park City: Vail sends a tremor through the industry when it purchases Park City Mountain Resort for an estimated $182.5 million from Powdr Corp on September 11, 2014. It quickly merges Park City with Canyons Resort, acquired on a 50-year lease 16 months earlier, creating the largest ski resort in the U.S.
Perisher: Six months later, Vail acquires the largest mountain resort in Australia for $135 million. By late 2016, Vail Resorts’ stock price hits $162 per share, nearly 250 percent above its pre-recession price 10 years earlier. The global takeover—probably including one of those cool, holographic maps of the Earth sitting in CEO Rob Katz’ office—has commenced.
Whistler Blackcomb: If Park City and Perisher were foreshocks, Vail’s purchase of the most-trafficked ski area in North America for $1.1 billion on August 8, 2016, might have broken the Richter scale. The purchase price was one of the largest ever for a mountain resort.
Money talks. With record-setting revenues despite an industry-wide downturn in visitors, Vail blitzes the Northeast and Northwest, snatching up Vermont’s Okemo and Stowe Mountain Resorts, Washington’s Stevens Pass, and completes an agreement to operate New Hampshire’s Mount Sunapee in a deal with Triple Peaks. Back home, one of the few local holdouts, Crested Butte, also a Triple Peaks property, is sold to Vail Resorts as part of the package. The move comes as a shock to many skiers, particular Crested Butte locals who in previous decades prided themselves on not being Vail.
February 22, 2019
With Perisher already in its arsenal, Vail acquires Australian resorts Falls Creek and Hotham for a reported $124 million.
July 22, 2019
Exactly five months later, Vail sweeps across the Midwest and Northeast again with its acquisition of Peak Resorts, owner of ski areas in Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. The purchase, which is still awaiting regulatory and shareholder approval, gives Epic Pass holders access to 37 ski areas in North America and Australia, as well as 11 resorts in Japan and 19 in Europe.
Everything Vail Resorts Owns and Operates:
Vail Mountain, Colorado: 1962
Beaver Creek Resort, Colorado: 1980
Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colorado: 1997
Keystone Resort, Colorado: 1997
Heavenly Mountain Resort, California: 2002
Northstar California Resort, California: 2010
Kirkwood Mountain Resort, California: 2012
Afton Alps, Minnesota: 2012
Mt. Brighton, Michigan : 2012
Canyons Resort, Utah: 2013**
Park City Mountain Resort, Utah: 2014
Perisher Ski Resort, Australia: 2015
Wilmot Mountain Ski Resort, Wisconsin: 2016
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, Canada: 2016
Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont: 2017
Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Colorado: 2018
Mount Sunapee Resort, New Hampshire: 2018***
Okemo Mountain Resort, Vermont: 2018
Stevens Pass, Washington: 2018
Falls Creek, Australia: 2019
Hotham Alpine Resort, Australia: 2019
Paoli Peaks, Indiana: 2019*
Hidden Valley Ski Resort, Missouri: 2019*
Snow Creek Ski Area, Missouri: 2019*
Attitash Mountain Ski Area, New Hampshire: 2019*
Crotched Mountain Resort, New Hampshire: 2019*
Wildcat Mountain Ski Area, New Hampshire: 2019*
Hunter Mountain, New York: 2019*
Boston Mills Ski Resort, Ohio: 2019*
Brandywine Ski Resort, Ohio: 2019*
Mad River Mountain, Ohio: 2019*
Alpine Valley Resort, Ohio: 2019*
Jack Frost Ski Resort, Pennsylvania: 2019*
Big Boulder Ski Resort, Pennsylvania: 2019*
Roundtop Mountain Resort, Pennsylvania: 2019*
Whitetail Resort, Pennsylvania: 2019*
Liberty Mountain Resort, Pennsylvania: 2019*
Mount Snow Resort, Vermont: 2019*
*Pending approval by regulators and company shareholders.
**Vail Resorts leased this property and merged it with Park City Mountain Resort.
***The State of New Hampshire owns this property, but Vail operates it.