SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — The owner of Soda Springs and Boreal ski areas purchased Colorado's Copper Mountain this week, pending approval from the U.S. Forest Service and federal regulators.
Officials from Intrawest, which had owned Copper Mountain, announced what they called a definitive deal with Powdr Corp. Tuesday morning, after months of speculation on the sale of Intrawest's interests at the resort alongside Interstate 70.
Intrawest, the Vancouver-based resort and real estate development firm, ran into financial difficulties about a year ago as the real estate market deflated. Since then, financial analysts have said that the company might need to sell some of its assets to raise the cash needed to refinance loans.
“It's a good sign for the industry,” said Jerry Jones, an Avon-based real estate broker who has been involved in numerous ski resort transactions. “It's the first major sale since the economy cratered last year,” he said, speculating that the sale price may have been somewhere around $100 million.
Jones said that figure is based on previous resort sales prices that were equal to about nine or ten times the annual net operating income.
Intrawest spokesman Ian Galbraith said both Intrawest and Powdr Corp. are privately held companies and as such, wouldn't release any detailed information on the sale price of Copper. Galbraith said the sale does not affect any other Intrawest properties.
Galbraith said he couldn't elaborate on exactly what assets are included in the sale. At least some of the commercial properties at Copper Mountain are owned by CNL Lifestyle Properties and leased back to Copper Mountain for day-to-day operations.
According to the CNL web site, the company is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that invests in lifestyle properties. The company is a real estate investment trust that “acquires properties and leases them primarily on a long-term, triple-net basis to tenants that operate the properties on its behalf.”
Jones said Powdr Corp is a capable competitor in the industry, and will need to be at the top of its game in the face-to-face contest for skier share with Vail Resorts.
“I think it's a different situation for anyone to compete with Vail Resorts,” Jones said, referring to VR's dominant position in the Colorado ski resort market. “Copper has struggled with its base village over the years. They (Powdr Corp.) must be thinking long-term.”
Jones said the sale leaves open the question of whether Copper Mountain will be able to continue a ticket and pass partnership with Steamboat and Winter Park. Those agreements have helped Intrawest compete with the Vail Resorts multi-mountain empire.
Powdr Corp is based in Park City, Utah. The company owns and operates seven resorts: Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah, Killington Resort and Pico Resort in Killington, Vermont, Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon, Boreal Resort and Soda Springs Resort, both in Donner Summit, California, and Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.
In a letter to Copper property owners, Copper president and chief operating officer Gary Rodgers said the sale will be a positive for the resort and the wider community.
“We believe this transaction represents a positive outcome for Copper Mountain and it will provide numerous benefits to Summit County,” Rodgers wrote. “Powdr Corp operates several ski resorts throughout North America and Copper will be an important addition to their resort family and their first resort property in Colorado.”
I'm delighted they found a buyer that's a resort operator and not a real estate developer,” said Tom Malmgren, who owns Carbonate Real Estate at Copper Mountain.
Malmgren, who tussled with Intrawest about the company's plans for base area development, said he hopes the new owner takes the time to get to know the resort before making new plans or big changes.
The sale of Copper to a company that's focused on resort operations may reflect an overall shift in the industry, Malmgren said.
The era of full-tilt real estate development may be over, at least for now. Companies like Intrawest and Vail Resorts can no longer depend on steady sales of slopeside condos to bolster the bottom line. Instead, the resorts have to carefully look at how they can maximize revenues from mountain-related operations, including skier services like ski schools and resort restaurants.
More information about Powdr Corp. is online at www.powdr.com.