In a big preseason sale, Sugarloaf, Sunday River and four other New England ski resorts are being sold. And that’s just part of an $830 million deal that includes ski resorts, theme parks and other recreation properties around the country.
Sugarloaf and Sunday River’s land and infrastructure are owned by a massive real estate investment trust called CNL Lifestyle Properties. Now the resorts are changing hands in a deal that involves two companies, Kansas City-based EPR Properties and Och-Ziff, a multibillion-dollar institutional asset management firm based in New York.
Och-Ziff will be the nominal owner of the Maine properties, although EPR is providing financing as well. The deal is expected to close in 2017.
Officials with the various companies involved in the complicated deal would not comment, But to Bob Luce, chairman of the select board in Sugarloaf’s hometown of Carrabasset Valley, the handover looks like good news.
He says in recent years it was apparent to the mountain community that the owners did not have much cash to invest in equipment and other needed upgrades. Two years ago, Sugarloaf skiers were injured when its King Pine lift spun backwards. This summer, Sunday River’s Spruce Peak lift collapsed.
“They haven’t had the capital so I think they’ve both been struggling with that. It’ll be better in the future going forward; it’ll give them additional access to capital to do whatever expansions they might have in mind,” Luce says.
At Camden Snow Bowl, an unrelated ski area, general manager Landon Fake says the acquisition of large ski areas in different regions of the country by a single owner has proven to be a valuable hedge when skiing conditions in the west prove to be less favorable than the east or vice versa.
“I don’t think it’s significant in that most big ski areas are being bought up by larger conglomerates and I think that’s a trend in the industry,” he says. “I don’t think it’s going to mean any major changes for Sunday River or Sugarloaf. They haven’t been owned locally for quite some time.”
And while the deal involves real property at the resorts, their actual operations are administered by another company, Boyne Resorts. Boyne has long-term contracts to operate Sunday River, Sugarloaf and another mountain that’s part of the deal, Loon Mountain in New Hampshire.
It’s a relationship that has benefited skiers in the region, whose ski passes are good at all three. Luce and others say they are confident Boyne’s operations will continue smoothly.
There are a total of 14 ski resorts affected by the deal. In addition to the three mentioned, New Hampshire’s Sunapee, Vermont’s Okemo and Massachusetts Jimini Peak are also changing hands. Western properties include Utah’s Brighton and Colorado’s Crested Butte resorts.
This report comes from the New England News Collaborative, eight public media companies coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.