Vail Resorts acquires its first European property


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It was only a matter of time before Vail Resorts (VR) gained a foothold in Europe, and that moment has now come with the news that the company is buying Andermatt-Sedrun in the Swiss Alps. The resort, located 90 minutes from Zurich and just over two hours from Zermatt, becomes Vail Resorts’ first property in Europe.

Although the Epic Pass, Vail Resorts’ multi-mountain ski pass, already included access to European partner resorts – 4 Vallées, Switzerland, Ski Arlberg, Austria, Les 3 Vallées, France and Ski Dolomiti, Italy – the Skiing was limited to only a few days at these independent resorts. With the purchase of Andermatt-Sedrun, Vail can now offer Epic Pass holders full and unlimited access to Andermatt-Sedrun’s 120 km of varied terrain that spans three mountains.

The deal is not yet finalized, but if all goes according to plan, VR will acquire 55% Swiss ownership. The ski area’s former owner and operator, Andermatt Swiss Alps AG (ASA), along with a small group of existing shareholders, will retain the remaining 45% stake.

One of the highlights of skiing in the Swiss Alps? Ride the iconic Matterhorn Bahn from the Oberalp Pass to Andermatt. (Photo: Getty Images)

“Entering the European ski market is a long-term strategic priority for Vail Resorts,” said Kirsten Lynch, CEO of Vail Resorts. “We are delighted to partner with ASA and invest our capital and resources to support the continued development of Andermatt-Sedrun into one of the premier alpine destination resorts in Europe.”

The deal is expected to be completed before the 2022-23 ski season and VR plans to include unrestricted and unrestricted access to Andermatt-Sedrun on next season’s full Epic Pass. Epic Local Pass holders will earn five unrestricted days, while Epic Day Pass holders with All Resorts Access will be able to use any of their days at the resort.

Skiers will be able to use their Epic Pass products to ski the interconnected mountains of Andermatt, Sedrun and Gemstock, although Disentis, a fourth connected mountain, remains independently owned and will not be included in the Epic Pass. Nevertheless, the newly acquired VR terrain is substantial and includes over 10 miles of downhill skiing on Switzerland’s famous Oberalp Pass between Andermatt and Sedrun.

All this is not cheap. VR said the deal was equivalent to an investment of approximately $160 million on its part, including $42 million paid to ASA and $118 million for capital investments to improve the customer experience in Andermatt- Sedrun. Most recently, on December 31, 2021, Vail Resorts completed its acquisition of Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Hidden Valley Resort and Laurel Mountain Ski Area near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for approximately $118 million.

It’s a bold move for the beleaguered Vail Resorts given its position and standing in the North American ski market. On the one hand, this European acquisition is an attractive addition to the Epic Pass and might just convince disgruntled Epic Pass holders to skip another season, despite the misfortunes they’ve had at North American VR stations. during the 2021-22 season. On the other hand, Epic Pass holders may question this significant overseas investment when capital investment is clearly needed in a number of VR-owned stations right here at home. (Vail just announced plans to raise the minimum wage for North American employees to $20/hour, a 30% increase).

Not to mention how the residents of Andermatt-Sedrun may feel about being included in the VR portfolio. According to the former owner and operator ASA, this is good news.

“Vail Resorts is the perfect partner for our goal of making Andermatt the premier alpine destination,” said Samih Sawiris, majority owner of ASA. “With Vail Resorts’ additional capital investment in the resort, its deep expertise in successful integrated mountain destination operations, and the destination’s impressive marketing capabilities and customer reach, Vail Resorts will give a significant boost to the development of Andermatt-Sedrun.”

Hopefully the “significant boost” of being included in the Epic Pass doesn’t overwhelm the Swiss resort like it has others. For now, VR promises to inject cash into the station, but otherwise let go, retaining “all employees, existing operational infrastructure and local expertise.”

Says Lynch: “We are proud to add this incredible Swiss destination to our network of world-class resorts and welcome Vail Resorts Epic Pass, Epic Day Pass and Epic Local holders to experience the resort’s charming villages, alpine terrain and plenty of amenities as we seek to create an even stronger offering for skiers and boarders in Europe.

This story was first published by SKI.

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