Vail Resorts, one of the largest ski resort operators in the United States, announced that it plans to acquire Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in British Columbia for $1.1 billion by the end of the year. Under the transaction, which has been unanimously approved by both resorts’ board of directors and shareholders, Vail Resorts would own 100 percent of Whistler Blackcomb’s stock.
The British Columbia resort will nominate one board member to Vails Resorts’ board of directors, and Dave Brownlie will continue to lead Whistler Blackcomb as chief operation officer. He will also become a member of the senior leadership team of Vail Resorts’ mountain division. Vail Resorts, headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, plans to retain the majority of Whistler Blackcomb employees, except for duplicate positions in corporate functions.
“With our combined experience and expertise, together we will build upon the guest experience at Whistler Blackcomb while preserving the unique brand and character of the resort as an iconic Canadian destination for guests around the world,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. “We are delighted to add such a renowned resort to Vail Resorts and look forward to expanding our relationships in the Sea-to-Sky community, British Columbia and Canada.”
Whistler Blackcomb is one of the most iconic mountain resorts in the world, and was the site of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Covering two adjacent peaks— Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain—connected via gondola, the ski area is one of the biggest in North America with 8,171 acres, 14 alpine bowls and three glaciers. It also offers one of the longest ski seasons in the region.
Vail Resorts plans to invest in the growth of Whistler Blackcomb, including the recently announced $345 million Renaissance project that will add new, year-round attractions and activities, winter and summer improvements and revitalize Blackcomb Mountain’s upper and lower base areas. It will also add a six-star luxury boutique hotel, residence and club, plus 55-65 ski-in/ski-out townhomes. The developments are aimed at diversifying the local tourism economy and enhancing guest experiences.
The resort operates on the traditional lands of Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations, and intends to continue business discussions with the indigenous communities regarding the partnership, according to Brownlie. Because of broader challenges facing the ski industry, due in part to the unpredictability of year-to-year regional weather patterns, Brownlie believes the acquisition will strengthen Whistler Blackcomb. Vail Resorts will extend its Epic Pass program to the British Columbia resort for the 2017-18 season, which can be used at any ski resort within the brand.
“Combining Whistler Blackcomb with Vail Resorts’ portfolio of outstanding resorts provides Whistler Blackcomb with increased financial strength, marketing exposure, guest relationships and broadens the geographic diversity of our company with resorts across the United States, as well as in Australia and Canada,” said Brownlie. “This relationship will bring greater resources to support our current operations and our ambitious growth plans, including the Renaissance project, the most exciting and transformative investment in Whistler Blackcomb’s history.”
Vail Resorts operates nine world-class mountain resorts and two urban ski areas, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Perisher in Australia; Willmont Mountain in Wisconsin; Afton Alps in Minnesota; and Mt. Brighton in Michigan. The company also owns a collection of hotels under the RockResorts brand and the Grand Teton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.