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BREAKING NEWS: Aspen and Steamboat Now Under One Roof

Aspen Skiing Company’s equity firm buys Intrawest for $1.5 Billion.

Waves of excitement rippled through the Steamboat real estate market on Monday when Aspen Skiing Company and KSL Partners acquired Intrawest for $1.5 billion, which owns and operates six resorts, including Steamboat.

If you thought the rivalry between Aspen and Vail was bad, well, it just got a lot worse. The acquisition was a strategic move on behalf of Aspen Skiing Company to topple Vail Resorts in a war of ski resort consolidation. Vail has spent over a billion dollars in the past year to expand its ski area holdings to include Whistler Blackcomb and Stowe, Vermont. The name of the game? Season Pass programs that include multiple resorts.

“Any time the ski resort changes ownership it’s great news for the real estate market because it increases property values, especially for properties that are at the base of the ski area,” says Beth Postemski, Director of Sales at The Porches. “When Steamboat was purchased by Intrawest we saw a lot of activity. The news about Aspen Skiing Company is very, very good news.”

Intrawest, which was once the largest ski area operator in the world, has been up for sale since last fall. According to The Denver Post, the recession, which hit resort real estate markets hard, left Intrawest in a holding pattern for the past several years. The company was straddled with monster debt after Fortress took Intrawest private for $2.8 billion in 2006. The company jettisoned resorts, including Copper Mountain and its flagship Whistler Blackcomb, in a scramble to make debt payments through the economic decline.

What does this mean for Steamboat season pass holders? Beyond the obvious advantages of bringing Steamboat, Aspen, Squaw/Alpine Meadows and Winter Park together under one roof are the possibility of multi-resort season passes. The new group also acquired Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain Ontario, near Toronto, Stratton in Vermont and West Virginia’s Snowshoe, which is close to the Washington, D.C. market. That likely won’t happen anytime soon, Aspen Skiing Company’s publicist Jeff Hanle told The Aspen Times. But it could definitely happen in the future.

Intrawest chief Thomas Marano said in a statement that the deal “delivers tremendous value” to shareholders, who get $23.75 a share, roughly 40 percent more than the company’s $17 share price in mid-January.

“We are excited to work with Aspen and KSL. Our new partners bring additional financial resources and a shared passion for the mountains and our mountain communities. Both Aspen and KSL are committed to helping Intrawest accelerate our plans to bring more value to our guests, more opportunities for our employees and more investment into our local communities,” Marano said.