Vail's Epic Pass will be more epic next year.
Competition on the ski hill just extended from the slopes to the boardroom with Vail Resorts purchasing Whistler Blackcomb for $1.05 billion in a deal that combines two of North America’s biggest ski resorts.
Contrary to what its name would imply, Vail Resorts doesn’t just operate in Vail, Colorado, but has 11 ski areas and mountain resort properties in five states—including Park City, Utah, the largest ski resort in the U.S.—as well as in Australia.
As NPR reported, Vail has been interested in expanding into Canada for some time. Whistler’s pristine slopes, which draw close to 2 million skiers a year from around the world, make it very desirable for Vail.
“Whistler Blackcomb is one of the most iconic mountain resorts in the world with an incredible history, passionate employees and a strong community,” Vail CEO Rob Katz wrote in a statement to investors.
The expansion also lets Vail take advantage of fluctuations in currency as the low Canadian dollar has helped attract visitors to Whistler since the resort opened in 1966.
Both resorts are eager for the opportunity to expand their geographic diversity. It is an increasingly important business strategy as ski resorts have been some of the earliest sufferers of climate change, as global warming trends have translated into smaller snowfalls.
“We’ve always been a successful company on our own, and this is just like adding a bigger engine to the machine to allow us more strength and stability—to make us move faster no matter what is thrown at us, like global weather conditions or economic factors,” Whistler Blackcomb CEO David Brownlie told Bloomberg.
As for what this means for skiers, Whistler Blackcomb passes for this season will be honored, but skiers will have to buy Vail’s season pass next year. That could be good news for globe-hopping ski bunnies, though, as it gives pass holders access to Vail’s growing network of resorts.
Vail also said it would “invest substantially” in Whistler Blackcomb’s infrastructure by improving ski lifts and snow-making equipment, and expanding the resort’s year-round offerings, including adding an indoor water park.
If they get government approval—and the approval of First Nations communities that own some of the surrounding land—the companies hope to finalize the deal this fall just in time for the winter ski season.