Vail Resorts vs. Intrawest?
“To this day, Vail Resorts has not yet seen the documentation that
details the agreement between Intrawest and Denver,” Vail Resorts’ senior vice president of public affairs, Porter Wharton III, said Thursday. “If Intrawest has indeed violated its contractual obligations, then we will be left with no choice other than to protect our Company’s interests by commencing
litigation in the very near term.”
Officials from Intrawest and the City and County of Denver announced Thursday $50 million in on-mountain improvements for Winter Park over the next 10 years. The resort operates on 8,000 acres of private and U.S. Forest Service land with 2,886 skiable acres and 22 lifts, boasting an average of 988,000 skier-visits a year. The City of Denver chose Intrawest to develop a 1,100-unit village on 175 acres – 75 of which are developable – for the ailing Grand County ski resort, which last year lost $2.3 million.
Vail Resorts officials, however, say not so fast.
In 1996, Intrawest and Vail Resorts signed a non-compete agreement that indicates Intrawest – which is developing the base area of Vail Resorts-owned Keystone – cannot develop real estate at resorts in which it doesn’t hold a majority interest, Wharton said.
Winter Park, located near Fraser in Grand County, is owned by the City and County of Denver, and officials from those two entities announced Thursday morning they have no intention of selling the resort.
“Our position regarding Intrawest’s Winter Park agreement has never changed,” Wharton said. “Just as Vail Resorts never challenged Intrawest’s purchase of Copper Mountain, we will not stand in the way of Intrawest moving forward at Winter Park, provided that in doing so, they do not violate their contractual non-compete obligations.”
Thursday evening, however, Wharton said Intrawest’s announcement makes Vail Resorts officials believe Intrawest might be breaching the no-compete provisions.
“If Intrawest has not bought a 50 percent or more controlling interest of Winter Park, then Intrawest is in contractual breach,” Wharton said.
Denver officials have been told repeatedly by Intrawest they will be able to proceed with development at Winter Park, Wharton said. Intrawest officials, meanwhile, have been reported as saying the agreement with Vail Resorts allows real estate development.
“Our issue in this matter is not with the City and County of Denver,” Wharton said. “Rather, it is with Intrawest, a business partner in our Keystone Real Estate Development Company and with whom we have had a contractual agreement for nearly 10 years – and who now appears at first blush to be violating its commitments to us.”
Gary Raymond, president of development for Intrawest, disagreed.
“If we felt we were breaking our contract with Vail, we wouldn’t be in this transaction,” he said, adding that Intrawest has a controlling interest of Winter Park because it will run the resort, pay its bills and take all the risks.
Vail Resorts could have its work cut out for it, however, if Intrawest proceeds with development at Winter Park. Intrawest is known for transforming regional day-ski areas, including Mt. Tremblant in Quebec, into destination resorts.
The development also will provide Intrawest the opportunity to package its pass opportunities between Winter Park and Copper Mountain.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.