Another New England ski resort has announced a sale. Vermont's Sugarbush Resort, one of the largest destinations for skiing and riding on the East Coast, will join the portfolio of a Colorado-based resort ownership group.
"They want us to do what's right here for Sugarbush," said Win Smith, the majority owner of Sugarbush Resort.
Smith will stay on as president for now, but is selling to the Alterra Mountain Company out of Denver.
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Alterra is the group behind the Ikon Pass, which allows holders to visit multiple resorts, and which Sugarbush was already affiliated with. Alterra owns 14 destinations including Stratton in Vermont and Steamboat in Colorado.
Alterra's CEO, Rusty Gregory, told necn and NBC10 Boston that Sugarbush's reputation and location — drivable from big cities like Boston, New York and Hartford — were appealing.
"Their local strategy and tactics, and our large platform and larger-scale business model, I think, will make a great combination," Gregory said, adding that he prefers to let local leaders, such as Smith, make many decisions about the way individual Alterra resorts should be run.
Sugarbush said it is tough for independents in an era of resort consolidation, especially when it comes to major costs like expanding snowmaking infrastructure.
Smith called sophisticated networks of snow guns critical investments to protect against future effects of climate change, because they can help resorts recover from winter thaws.
"Could we do it on our own? Maybe," Smith said of making major capital investments. "But being a part of a big organization with a stronger balance sheet, we can probably do that a lot faster."
News of the sale is now the talk of the Mad River Valley.
"I trust his judgement and who he's going to turn it over to," skier Bobby Welter said of Smith and Alterra.
"I'm happy for them, and he'll be around still, but I'm a little concerned about all the construction they'll probably be doing," added Stacey Theurer, who lives near the resort.
Eric Friedman, the head of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce, noted that several Vermont resorts have been recently acquired, referring to the Stowe Mountain Resort, Okemo Mountain Resort, and Mount Snow, which now fall under Vail Resorts — famous for its multi-resort Epic Pass.
Friedman said he is welcoming Alterra to the Mad River Valley community.
"I think it will be good for the valley," he predicted, while also praising Smith for his years of leadership and improvements at Sugarbush. "They [at Alterra] understand the value in not creating a cookie cutter experience. and I think that that's going to be really important for the Mad River Valley."
The deal is expected to close in January, with the price staying private. There will be no changes to passes for this season, Smith said, adding that planning will start next year on offerings for the 2020-2021 season. He predicted that in addition to the Ikon Pass, other local pass products will be available.
Sugarbush is currently working toward its opening day, expected late next week.
The resort will hold an open forum Wednesday, November 20 at 5 p.m. in the Gate House Lodge to discuss the transaction and answer community questions, it announced. Alterra representatives will attend that event to share their vision for Sugarbush, the company said.