Winter Park Resort – “Under New Ownership” – Opening Day November 15, 2006

Winter Park officially opened its lifts to the skiing and snowboarding public today “Under New Ownership”, but for all sliders enjoying the start of Winter Park’s 68th season, it was pleasure as usual.

Back on October 17th, 2006, at a special meeting of Intrawest’s shareholders and option holders (Intrawest operate and manage the Winter Park Resort) 99.9% voted to approve an arrangement whereby Intrawest would become a wholly owned subsidiary of a corporation indirectly owned by Fortress Investment Group LLC Funds.

Being of curious disposition, I’m wondering about the 0.1% who didn’t vote in favor of paying themselves a big premium over their purchase price – whatever that was. For one thing, we know it wasn’t Joe Houssian, Intrawest’s founder and chief executive officer who, according to the Vancouver Sun on September 21, 2006, reportedly will reap a $126 million windfall from his shares and options, etc.

The deal became officially official on October 23rd following approval by the Canadian Minister of Industry under the Investment Canada Act. 10 days later, on November 2nd, Mr. Houssian announced his retirement with Intrawest, but has agreed to participate in an advisory capacity to assist Intrawest going forward. Good for him I say – isn’t this the epitome of the American Dream?

The Intrawest entity looks set to remain, as opposed to its operation being referred to as “run by Fortress”, and apparently will stay in Vancouver operating as a private company. Intrawest’s symbol “IDR” is formally being de-listed from the NYSE.

All this is very interesting if you’re either an Intrawest shareholder, or interested in the changing landscape of ski resort ownership/management. The “general public”, which is most of us, are more interested in the scores on the doors – or rather opening day stats for Winter Park – so here they are:

  • Number of Lifts Open: 5
  • Number of Trails Open: 8 (including 1 “Park & Pipe” which is totally awesome, dude)
  • Number of Acres Open: 8
  • New snow: last 24 hours 3.5”; last 48 hours: 8.5”
  • Season snowfall to-date: 57.5”
  • Mid-mountain depth: 26”
  • Overall situation: Blue skies and sunshine.

So – a very modest opening despite all the hype and headlines for snowfall over the State of Colorado in the last 30 days. I suspect the Ski Area is slow-playing it’s hand, and will open considerably more trails as we head into Thanksgiving which looks like it will be a busy one. Furthermore, the outlook for snow for the next 10 days is virtually non-existent – more blue skies and mild-to-warm temperatures. Let’s hope that temperatures are cold enough at night to allow the Ski Area to continue making snow – something that has been on going since October 12th.