Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Crested Butte, Okemo, Brighton, Mt. Sunapee, Northstar, Sierra at Tahoe, some of the biggest resorts in the country are for sale! Sort of...
The mountains are operated by Boyne Resorts, Vail, and other operating companies, but are technically owned by CNL lifestyle properties, essentially the landlords to the resorts. CNL is selling off their properties. This will NOT change the daily operations of the resort. CNL owns the land, but other organizations like Boyne, Vail, Powdr, own the rights to operate the resort. Think about it as your landlord selling the rights to your lease to someone else. The owners are different, but you get to stay in your apartment. One group owns the land and the assets of the resort, while another group operates and maintains the resort.
This relationship is very common among big resorts, and is usually beneficial to the operating company. But like in every lease, it is important for the operating company to be on top of things. When an operating company falls behind the ball, the lifestyle property company can sell off the lease on the land to someone else. This is why Park City is now owned by Vail Resorts.
Powdr Corp. the operating company for Park City never intended to sell Park City, but unfortunately some missed paperwork, and all of a sudden, Park City's lifestyle holding company and landlord Talisker (a land holding group, similar to CNL) wanted to sell off the lease to the highest bidder, in this case, Vail Resorts. If Powdr had simply filed paperwork on time, we would not see Vail owning Park City.
Resorts sell the land in order to free up capital and make massive improvements they otherwise could not afford. They can tackle large projects with little risk, and the landlord will actually lend money to the operating company to make improvements. Think about it as your landlord giving you money to redo your floors.
Sunday River for example has the chondola, one of the most expensive useless chairlift, gondola combinations that is designed to attract skiers from Boston. A move that Boyne the operating company for Sunday River would never fund on their own, but thanks to CNL's capital, money was lent, and the chondola was erected.
(photo by luxuryskitrips.com)
Down the road from Sunday River is a small family owned resort called Mt. Abram, you know who doesnt have the money to make massive improvements? Mt. Abram. None of the small resorts do. Even if you grow up at one of these small resorts, most skiers move on. And we see the death of these mountains. They struggle financially, unable to attract crowds, unable to attract new skiers, unable to make improvements. Our eye for the shiny drives us to high speed quads, fast laps, and away from the local hill. Look at the source of the last photo, luxuryskitrips.com, does anything scream high end posh sophisticated white collar bullshit more than luxuryskitrips.com?
I have always been an advocate of the local hill, but I am a hypocrite as well. I ski at a large resort, and I love it. I love the October snowmaking, I love the massive parks, I love the bubble chairs, honestly it's fucking awesome. But I also make sure to visit my old homes, the small hills. A lift ticket purchased at the small hills make a bigger difference than one would expect.
If we want our local hills to survive, it is the responsibility of us, the consumer to decide that a family owned resort, where food is served by your old lunch lady, is just as good, and way more important than the resort where the high speed 6 pack chair delivers you to one of 6 on mountain bars, all operated by people in office chairs.
Cheers, and choose wisely.