Summit Ventures will sell the majority of its Sugarbush assets to Alterra Mountain Company, with the sale slated to close in early January 2020 subject to regulatory approvals.
Alterra currently owns 14 destinations in North America and partners with an additional 27 around the world through the Ikon Pass.
For this ski season 2019-20, all current Sugarbush Resort products and local passes will be honored as will the golf and health and recreation center passes. Ikon Pass access will not change, with seven-day access on the Ikon Pass and five-day access on the Ikon Base Pass. Sugarbush will continue to be part of the Mountain Collective. Any pass product changes will be considered after the sale closes and before spring pass sales begin.
Sugarbush president and owner Win Smith said that he’d turned down several offers to sell Sugarbush over the years and took pride in being independently owned and operated. However, recent events in the ski industry and the challenge of rising costs posed both by climate change and by doing business in Vermont have convinced him that a new owner was needed to ensure a sustainable future for Sugarbush.
|On Wednesday, November 20, Sugarbush will host an open forum for the community with Smith and his team along with a leadership team from the Alterra Mountain Company. They will talk about the transaction and future plans and answer all questions. This will begin at 5 p.m. in the Gate House Lodge. It will be recorded and available for later viewing.|
CHANGED THE LANDSCAPE
“I needed to find someone who would care for Sugarbush as we have and as our entire Sugarbush community would expect. I have found such an owner in Alterra Mountain Company,” Smith said.
“The multi-resort season pass has changed the landscape. It will be increasingly difficult for ski areas like Sugarbush to compete alone against Vail Resorts, Alterra Mountain Company, and others like Powdr and Boyne Resorts. The recent acquisition of Peak Resorts by Vail was the tipping point in my decision to sell,” he added.
He also mentioned climate change and the ongoing challenges it brings as well as stronger competition and the need for capital as influencing his decision to sell.
“I can assure you that I have no plans to retire to a gated golf community in Florida and still plan to ski at least 100 days this season and in many more years to come.” – Win Smith.
Smith appeared at a recent meeting of the Mad River Valley Planning District to discuss the potential of building a second snowmaking water storage pond closer to the mountain to allow the resort to recover more quickly after rain events damage the slopes.
“In my opinion, Sugarbush will be better able to make these necessary investments as a member of the Alterra Mountain Company family. While there are many wonderful features about Vermont, the cost of doing business here is greater than in many other states. Being able to find efficiencies by being part of a larger organization in things such as purchasing power or our employees being part of a larger health insurance pool or having more affordable workers’ compensation options were other considerations in my decision,” Smith said.
Local reaction to the news was supportive.
“On behalf of Mad River Glen, thank you and congratulations to Win Smith and team at Sugarbush Resort for everything they have done for Sugarbush, the Mad River Valley and the Vermont ski industry over nearly 20 years of resort ownership, said Matt Lillard, Mad River Glen general manager. “It has been a pleasure and honor to work alongside you to make the Mad River Valley the best ski and outdoor adventure destination in New England. While Mad River Glen will continue forever its independence as the nation’s only cooperatively owned ski area, we look forward to working with you and the new ownership group.”
Eric Friedman, executive director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce, said, “The first thing I’d say is that I think Win has been an incredible steward for Sugarbush during his tenure here. We’re really thankful for everything he’s done in support of the community. I can’t help but reflect how he’s stepped up to do the right thing for our community many times, including Tropical Storm Irene and so much more. He’s been an incredibly good corporate citizen.”
Friedman continued, “One of things I’ve always so appreciated about Win is the fact that he’s a skier. He was out there 150 days last year! The fact that he’s kept his passion for the industry and the sports has been really valuable for this community. I hope Alterra will appreciate what makes the Mad River Valley so unique and special and draws people here. I look forward to working with them.”
BECOMING AN EMPLOYEE
For his part, Smith is planning no immediate changes, other than to become an employee!
“I will stay on for as long as I wish in order to facilitate a smooth transition, to maintain our commitment to our guests and the Sugarbush community and to prepare the next generation of leaders to succeed me. Alterra Mountain Company wants our entire Sugarbush team to remain in place. They recognize our commitment to the Mad River Valley community and want that to continue as well,” said Smith.
“I can assure you that I have no plans to retire to a gated golf community in Florida and still plan to ski at least 100 days this season and in many more years to come,” Smith said.
“I am looking forward to riding the first chair up the mountain on Saturday, November 23 – or possibly November 22 for a pass holder appreciation day – successfully forerunning pond skimming in the spring, skiing at least 100 days this winter, and having a final run with many of you on Sunday, May 3,” he added.
PURCHASED IN 2001
Smith and his family and three other investors purchased Sugarbush from the American Skiing Company with the intention of restoring Sugarbush to what it was when founded by the Gadd, Murphy and Estin families in 1958.
“Thanks to support from our guests, the community here in the Mad River Valley and the terrific team here at Sugarbush, we have turned an unprofitable and deteriorating resort into one that is profitable and respected throughout the industry,” Smith added.
Sugarbush Resort’s two mountains – Mt. Ellen and Lincoln Peak – are joined by a 2-mile high-speed quad. Sugarbush also has a health and recreation club, multiple lodging properties and the Sugarbush Resort Golf Club with an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed golf course.
Since 2001 Sugarbush has invested $74 million in mountain improvements including seven new lifts, significant upgrades to its snowmaking system and the revitalization of the Lincoln Peak base area, complete with the Clay Brook Hotel and Residences and the Gate House Lodge, two skier services buildings, the Farmhouse and Schoolhouse, and new slope-side residences.