Our View: Vail Resorts’ competition with Alterra promises to be interesting
January 30, 2018
This editorial has been corrected to better clarify that Alterra Mountain Co.'s Ikon pass is valid beyond company-owned resorts.
News last week came that the new Alterra Mountain Co. had brought Eagle-Vail's slalom superstar Mikaela Shiffrin into its fold as an investor and ambassador.
The news is part of an ongoing splash Alterra is making in the U.S. ski industry. Alterra, a joint venture of KSL Capital Partners and Henry Crown and Co., has in the past year or so consolidated an impressive portfolio. Resorts in the Alterra's Ikon pass program now include Aspen Snowmass, Copper Mountain, Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado. Elsewhere, the pass will be valid at Deer Valley in Utah and Mammoth Mountain in California.
The newish company also recently unveiled the Ikon Pass, an all-resorts pass similar to Vail Resorts' Epic Pass.
The announcement of Shiffrin's involvement included the fact that the Ikon Pass will be valid at 23 resorts around the United States. Those resorts are either owned by, or partners with, Alterra.
Meanwhile, Vail Resorts announced on Monday, Jan. 29, that Telluride will be included in the Epic Pass starting with the 2018-2019 ski season. Telluride comes into the program as a partner to Vail Resorts and remains under its current ownership. Telluride will leave the Mountain Collective, another group of resorts with a common pass.
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All of these moves may have an effect on both ski slopes and Wall Street.
While there have been multimountain passes in seasons past, Alterra and the Ikon Pass is the first effort in several years to go toe-to-toe with Vail Resorts.
For the past several years, Vail Resorts has been the dominant player in the winter recreation business, paring down its other operations — particularly regarding real estate development — while expanding the number of resorts it holds.
That's been good news for shareholders. While Vail Resorts' stock took a dip along with the rest of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, Jan. 30, the stock is still 30 percent above its lowest price of the past 52 weeks.
If Alterra decides to go public, then only time will tell what impact that will have on Vail Resorts' stock price — although that price is more likely to be affected by company operations than competition.
The rise of Alterra will also truly test something Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz has often said in quarterly report conference calls. Whenever he's questioned, Katz will say he and Vail Resorts welcome competition in the industry.
Time will tell, but competition usually creates better products and systems. We'll see if that happens in the nation's ski business.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.
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