With the addition of Seven Springs, it seems that Vail has finally dipped into the level of regional destinations for the Midwest. For some reason, Midwesterners would much rather drive for ten hours to go to a smaller ski area than fly to Denver or Salt Lake City. While Ikon has the Boyne's, Vail just has small bumps near metro areas. The Indy pass on the other hand has cornered the market on these regional destinations, with Lutsen, Granite Peak, and Crystal all on that. It will be interesting to see if Vail and Alterra expand more into the Midwest, or if this buy is a one off to get the Pittsburgh market.

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Dec 13, 2021Liked by Stuart Winchester

One quick note on your otherwise fantastic summary of this transaction and its ramifications. When Vail talks about targeting "data rich" ski areas for expansion, it's almost certainly not a reference to the detail they can provide on their financial statements supporting the historical cash flow/acquisition price - that's table stakes. Rather, it's customer data from their CRM system that Vail can ingest into their central platform and then sell/market the hell out of the Epic Pass and related offerings. You could acquire the biggest, baddest ski resort in the world, but if you don't have data on your customers, then Vail isn't going to be interested b/c the value prop is all in the cross-sell.

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Dec 13, 2021Liked by Stuart Winchester

I think Boyne would be a good fit for Blue Knob. With some investment, Blue Knob could be a Brighton of the east. Same rustic feel, great terrain, and a mountain that skis bigger than it is. Plenty of room to expand too.

They could probably pick it up cheap and start with snowmaking. Replace the lodge and then upgrade the lifts.

Put it on a Boyne or Ikon pass and they have a feeder resort to New England and the West.

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Dec 12, 2021Liked by Stuart Winchester

49 Degrees North WA and Silver Mountain ID would present an interesting power shift in this Inland Northwest & Northern US Rockies and Inland British Columbia region, if Vail ever acquired them in some theoretical scenario...

Other than their Resorts of the Canadian Rockies partners, which have only seven days of Epic Pass access to share between them all (No Epic Local Pass or Epic Military Pass access), Vail has little to no hold in this very lucrative, grand region of skiing that really is becoming more prevalent in the North American snowsports scene. Revelstoke or Kicking Horse for example, are pretty new high caliber resorts that have popped up in this region. The Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective dominate the Canadian Rockies, and the Ikon Pass, Indy Pass and Powder Alliance have a firm presence in the Pacific Northwest and Inland Northwest. Vail has a good corner in the Pacific Northwest with Whistler Blackcomb and Stevens Pass, but the rest of the PNW & INW are covered much more extensively with those other alliances.

Vail in a theoretical claiming of 49 Degrees North and Silver Mountain would be a pretty painful loss for the Indy Pass and Powder Alliance in the Inland Northwest. Schweitzer is an Ikon Pass partner, and one of their season pass offerings that I've mentioned previously comes with an Ikon Base Pass, but having the Epic Pass being a much more viable option for folks in this region will present some harsh competition for the Ikon Pass. Schweitzer is the most popular ski resort of the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene metropolitan area, but the other options are both cheaper and closer, and throwing in an Epic Pass to two of Schweitzer's neighboring competitors will definitely convert some folks. Hell, Schweitzer's been dealing with some controversies lately that have upset a good amount of their fanbase already. I feel like their logo change alone ended up being a larger controversy than Palisades Tahoe's new name, even though Palisades Tahoe held their old name for over 70 years and is far more famous lol.

But even then, Schweitzer's controversies have extended beyond that, and if someone in Coeur d'Alene or Spokane has the choice of paying more and commuting farther to Schweitzer after all their controversies lately, or making a shorter commute to a closer, cheaper Silver Mountain or 49 Degrees North with an Epic Pass on the table, their choice may end up being the latter... it's already starting to be for some people out here!

I'd worry about day lift tickets and season pass prices at 49 Degrees North and Silver Mountain however. The Epic Pass is an excellent deal, without a doubt, but the prices of the Epic Passes and Vail's history of brutal day ticket prices will still be a large jump over 49N and Silver's $50-$72 day tickets and dirt cheap season passes that can come with a discounted Indy Pass, or the free Powder Alliance for Silver Mountain. Here in the Inland Northwest, we're more of the roughneck demographic - not poor or impoverished, but certainly not rolling in money either, and Vail ticket & season pass prices will negatively impact the accessibility of winter sports out here. Schweitzer is expensive too, leaving the affordable day trip resorts within the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene metro area being just Mt. Spokane and Lookout Pass in this scenario.

Silver Mountain Idaho is definitely trying to become a destination resort, and have the potential to do so. Currently, they're a midsized resort with an all fixed grip lift fleet save for the unbelievably massive gondola used to get to the ski resort from the town of Kellogg. But they also have Idaho's largest indoor water park and a very cool resort of nice condominiums and restaurants at their base in Kellogg surrounding the bottom terminal of the gondola. Silver Mountain provides year-round entertainment, like scenic gondola and chairlift rides, golfing, weddings, dining at their on-mountain lodge all seasons of the year, mountain biking, and more. Silver Mountain has also had a history of struggling to stay afloat at times and have had to put a pause to fulfilling their master plan, although their new owner who jointly owns 49 Degrees North is intent on resuming the development and continued success of both resorts. I imagine with theoretical Vail ownership, they'd definitely expedite Silver Mountain's winter and summer development.

49 Degrees North is trying to be a destination resort too, and they have been making major moves since 2005. They installed their first detachable quad this year, but still are overall a lower-frills resort with a lot of ambitions that lie ahead. Very minimal summer activities currently, but I imagine Vail would expedite 49N and Silver Mountain's development to become formidable competition with Schweitzer, and the Ikon Pass presence at Schweitzer and Red Mountain right across the Canadian border.

Mt. Hood Meadows, I grew up skiing there and spent by far the most ski seasons there than any other ski resort! They're very comparable to Crystal Mountain in Washington, being a resort with some of the gnarliest terrain in the state and also being close to the largest metropolitan area in the state, Portland, meaning horrendous lines on weekends and a continually increasing cost of skiing. If Mt. Hood Meadows were to ever go up for sale (which would likely never happen considering they've had the same owners for the longest time and continual financial success), Vail would be very smart to acquire it and add an excellent resort to their Epic Pass, and begin their foray into Oregon. That however would anger MANY people, as Meadows has a very passionate, purist following.

If there's one ski resort I would actually want Vail to acquire in the Pacific Northwest & Inland Northwest, it would be Mt. Bachelor. Powdr Corp mismanaged and drained that mountain for over a decade until they lost Park City, and only then did they start actually caring about Mt. Bachelor, as for the longest time they viewed that massive ski resort with so much potential and popularity purely as a revenue stream to direct toward their other resorts. But even now, Powdr still has worse operational philosophy and practices than Vail. I know a lot of people dislike Vail, but Vail objectively cares more about the environment, invests more in their ski resorts, and makes their resorts more affordable and accessible compared to Powdr Corp, which simply looks to monetize every possible thing including lift queues starting this year.

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