Despite mega ski industry, few changes expected for upcoming season at Squaw Valley | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Despite mega ski industry, few changes expected for upcoming season at Squaw Valley

Amanda Rhoades
arhoades@sierrasun.com

KSL Capital Partners and Aspen Skiing Co. announced last week that they had finalized their acquisition of Intrawest Resorts Holdings, but it could take some time before the deal has any impact on Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

"It's basically the Henry Crown Company, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, KSL Capital Partners — push those three together and that's the new company that was put together," said Squaw Valley Ski Holdings President and Chief Operating Officer Andy Wirth. "That new company, which we don't have a name for yet, is the entity that acquired Mammoth and Intrawest."

Mammoth Resorts' portfolio includes Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, June Mountain, Bear Mountain, and Snow Summit to name a few. Intrawest includes Steamboat Ski and Resort as well as Winter Park Resort, and Aspen Skiing Company includes Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk.

Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, which owns Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts and is an affiliate of KSL, is part of the new entity but will continue to operate under its current management, according to an Intrawest statement.

“It’s August right now and I’ll tell you in our business, if you don’t have things really set up, built, developed, set up, and ready to go by now for the upcoming ski season there’s very little chance that things will be going smoothly.”Andy Wirth Squaw Valley Ski Holdings President and CEO

"What's it going to mean for Squaw Valley? … The customers will see, maybe not immediately, but some very enticing, compelling ski access products," Wirth said. "The best way to put it is we're bringing some of the very, very, very best ski resorts in North America to our customers."

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He said that Squaw Valley Ski Holdings now has the opportunity to take its already established affiliate programs to the next level, but right now it doesn't look like a new pass will be ready in time for the upcoming ski season.

"It's August right now and I'll tell you in our business, if you don't have things really set up, built, developed, set up, and ready to go by now for the upcoming ski season there's very little chance that things will be going smoothly," Wirth said.

"These system setups are complex, and it's unlikely that we'll have any kind of specific pass product for the 2017-2018 season," he added. "It's exceedingly likely we'll have a compelling pass product announcement in the spring of '18."

In addition to more competitive season pass offerings, Wirth said that increased access to capital is another way that Squaw Valley Ski Holdings will benefit from the acquisition.

"We're becoming substantially more competitive. We've actually taken market share from our number one competitor here in Lake Tahoe and we're prideful in that, but let me be clear: We know exactly where we need to improve things," he said. "That said we're very prideful that our ability to compete was just notched up quite a few points."

Wirth said one of the biggest areas of improvement that his team is focused on is increasing the safety of the resorts, both for employees and guests.

In January, the Lake Tahoe and broader skiing community mourned the loss of a ski patroller, who died in an explosives-related accident at Squaw Valley.

Wirth said that unprecedented snowfall totals and extreme weather conditions experienced last winter were without a doubt attributed to climate change. He said he's made it a top priority to better prepare for upcoming winters, and that being able to learn from other teams has been essential to that process.

Amanda Rhoades is a news, environment and business reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at arhoades@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @akrhoades.

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