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Vail Resorts has BIG plans for Whistler Blackcomb

Dean Linnell

Dean has lived in Whistler for 26 years and is passionate about the Whistler real estate business...

Dean has lived in Whistler for 26 years and is passionate about the Whistler real estate business...

Jan 30 5 minutes read

At first glance, the decision for Vail Resorts’ to buy Whistler Blackcomb seemed a bit impulsive, making it their most audacious and expensive purchase to date. But, as we look deeper into their strategy to acquire the $1.4 billion resort — which was paid in both cash and stock to Whistler Blackcomb stockholders — we realize a number of factors in this deal made sense. Vail has also been known to invest in the properties it buys and believes it will improve the well renowned BC resort.

The CEO of Vail Resorts, Rob Katz states, “Our approach is actually to increase investment in the resorts, increase improvements and putting money back into them. By having a larger company, you have that geographic diversity and financial strength to continue making those investments.”

Kratz did not disclose what new investments were going to be made to Whistler Blackcomb, but promised Vail would continue the Whistler Blackcomb’s Renaissance Project, a $345 million plan to dramatically upgrade the resort. 

These additions will include: 

  • One Blackcomb Place: A new “6 star” luxury hotel, residence and club; 
  • The Watershed: An indoor, four season, weather-independent adventure centre; 
  • New chairlifts, restaurants, snow-making and terrain improvements on Whistler Mountain 
  • Blackcomb Adventure Park: a new outdoor attractions and activities centre 
  • A new indoor action sports complex called The Annex 
  • Up to 65 ski-in/ski-out townhouses called Blackcomb Terrace 

Benefits for Season Pass Holders

There will be many benefits for season ski pass holders, expecting to see a dramatic cut in costs starting in 2017. The pass which normally goes for C$2,000 at full retail is expected to go for half that. Additionally, Whistler Blackcomb will be included in Vail's 13 Resort Epic Pass, which currently sells for $809US. This is part of Vail’s North American plan to making skiing more affordable. 

Kratz also believes that by adding Whistler Blackcomb to the Epic Pass, it will not only encourage pass holders to take more than one winter trip, but allow skiers to go elsewhere for better snow instead of being confined to one mountain all winter.

“We believe with the price being lower and all the benefits added, we can really expand our base,” Rob Katz, Vail’s CEO said Monday. “It is true that for a handful of people they are going to get a great discount but for so many other people they are going to buy a season pass when they ordinarily wouldn’t. We’ve seen this broaden and make much more accessible the opportunity to ski at the best value possible.”

Why Now?

Though this deal came as a shock to most, the factors leading in do make sense. One being, the currency exchange — with Canadian currency being lower than the U.S dollar, now is the best time to invest in Canadian assets.

Whistler Blackcomb is a four-season resort which maintains an audience year round unlike most other ski resorts who are just popular in the winter months. Vail believes it has lots to learn from Whistler Blackcomb and can furthermore help the other Vail Resorts.

Also, a majority of Whistler Blackcomb tourists are from Asia. Vail has been wanting to invest in the Asian market for quite some time, so by investing in Whistler Blackcomb ski resort they will be boosting the company’s international market draw, especially visitors in Asia, Australia and Europe. 

Shares on the Rise

Shares of Vail Resorts rose nearly 8 percent on Monday after Vail announced that it will be purchasing Whistler Blackcomb. Shareholders would receive $17.50 per share in cash and $0.0975 shares on Vail’s common stock, equalling a total of $36.00 per share. 

Vail Resorts has also mentioned that it will work closely with the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations along with the provincial government to work out a master development plan. We can expect the deal to close within the next two to four months after the transaction gets approved by the Canadian Government.

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