Big news for some small hills in the midwest this week as Vail Resorts announced plans to acquire Mt. Brighton (MI) and Afton Alps (MN). From the press release:
BROOMFIELD, Colo.—Dec. 6, 2012—Vail Resorts, Inc. (NYSE: MTN) announced today that it has entered into agreements to purchase two premier urban ski areas in the Midwest, Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mount Brighton in Michigan, for total cash consideration of $20 million.
Vail expects to finalize the purchase next month. So, what does this mean for Mt. Brighton and Afton Alps locals?
For starters, you’ll be part of the Vail family of resorts. Expect bundled season pass benefits similar to what’s offered by Boyne, whose gold pass holders have privileges in Big Sky MT, Brighton UT and other Boyne-owned or -managed resorts across North America. New pass offerings will take effect next winter, but passholders at either will be able to benefit from a 25% discount on lift tickets at Vail resorts for the remainder of the season.
Development & Investment
Although I can’t speak to Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton is a veritable time capsule and a poorly maintained one at that, so the acquisition by Vail Resorts probably means upgrades and new development. Although I wouldn’t anticipate a resort village or condominiums,the quality of each amenities and services should go up considerably.
Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer says Vail Resorts plans “to bring state-of-the-art racing, terrain parks, coaching and technology to the guest experience.”
But hey, at least it’s not Intrawest.
Competition or More Monopoly?
I am cautiously optimistic, that Vail Resorts’ presence may spur some healthy competition among the other local resorts, inspiring them to do more and do better. Calling spades spades, the other three ski areas in Metro-Detroit are at least partially owned/operated by the same holding company (Alpine Valley Holding Co., which also owns Alpine Valley WI and Devil’s Head WI) and as a result they may have gotten away with not doing as much in the past, but with a new player in town committed to development, this might change things for the better.
Or it might not. On the other hand, Vail may be seeking to establish a foothold in the Midwest, from which to further expand and acquire more ski resorts/properties, in which case we’re not much better off trading one monopoly for another, even larger monopoly.
If one thing is true in business it’s that nothing is free, and they’ll take any opportunity to raise prices. At the end of the day Vail paid ~10M for a pile of dirt in the midwest, and they’re going to do everything they can to ensure a positive ROI on that money, which means you’ll be paying for it one way or another.
Like the other mega corps that are dominating the resort industry, Vail Resorts doesn’t hesitate to milk people for every last penny, whether it be through $100 single-day lift tickets, land and real estate development/speculation, or dropping $30 million on superfluous “experience” at Northstart-at-Tahoe.
So there’s definitely some potential bad along with the improvements and benefits that Vail intends to offer the Midwest ski areas.
If you’re local to either Brighton or Afton Alps, how do you think this will impact you???