Friday, September 26, 2014

Ski Resort Mergers

Source: Larry Olmsted, Forbes (September, 2014; March, 2014)

"Consolidation in business is not always good news for consumers (think airlines, telecom and cable industries) but it has been in skiing. In the past few years there have been numerous acquisitions, formal partnerships, marketing partnerships and shared management deals, and the result has been cheaper, better and more flexible lift ticket and vacation options for skiers and snowboarders".

"Over the past three years the ski industry has had a paradigm shift in the way it sells lift tickets, especially season tickets, and has moved to a multi-mountain formula that allows skiers and snowboarders a lot more flexibility at prices far lower than they used to be. For years a single New England ski resort could command over a thousand dollars for a season pass and today half of that you can ski a dozen resorts".
"I have written in detail here about the major players in this field, especially the Epic Pass from Vail Resorts and the consortium of high-profile mostly independent resorts like Alta and Jackson and Aspen that comprise the competing Mountain Collective. The Powder Alliance gives a lot of benefits to season pass buyers at a dozen mid-sized and large western and northwestern resorts. Just last week I wrote about the latest newcomer, Intrawest’s Passport, which is an especially great deal for families and groups at half a dozen North American resorts.
I’ll try not to rehash all this as you can read my earlier stories (click here for Epic Pass or here for Powder Alliance or here for Mountain Collective and others) for more in-depth analysis, but the crux of the matter is this: season passes used to be for people who could drive to a particular ski resort and thus get in a lot of days. This also locked skiers financially into almost exclusively favoring one resort at home and paying full retail when traveling elsewhere. In sharp contrast, today’s passes often make sense even for far flung travelers who can’t drive to any resort

"The latest industry news came from the West Coast, where California’s huge Mammoth Mountain, already a dominant force for both Southern California and Bay Area residents, got much bigger. Mammoth announced its acquisition of Big Bear Mountain Resorts in Big Bear Lake, California. This includes both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, two Southern California resorts that collectively host nearly 800,000 winter visits annually. Mammoth already owns June Mountain, a ski resort in Northern California, near Yosemite. The deal creates one of the nation’s largest ski companies with over 2 million visitors per year. This comes hot on the heels of another big announcement from Mammoth, the addition this season of two new flights into the very convenient Mammoth Lakes airport, on Alaska from Las Vegas and on United from Denver, a major United hub. These are the first flights to Mammoth that do not originate in California, making it much easier for visitors from the Midwest and East to access the resort.
To mark the occasion, Mammoth just announced a new Cali4nia Pass, a season pass offering unlimited skiing or snowboarding at all four resorts. Like the Vail Resorts deal, this is far less than the cost of many single resort season passes coast to coast – in some cases about half the price

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