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It was only a matter of time before Vail Resorts (VR) gained a foothold in Europe, and that time has now come with news that the company is purchasing Andermatt-Sedrun in the Swiss Alps. The resort, located 90 minutes from Zurich and little more than two hours from Zermatt, becomes the first Vail Resorts-owned property in Europe.
Though 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—skiing was limited to just a handful of days at these independently owned resorts. With the purchase of Andermatt-Sedrun, Vail can now offer Epic Pass holders unrestricted, unlimited access to Andermatt-Sedrun’s 120km of varied terrain that sprawls over three mountains.
The deal is not yet finalized, but if all goes according to plan, VR will acquire 55-percent ownership of the Swiss resort. The previous owner and operator of the ski area, Andermatt Swiss Alps AG (ASA), plus a small group of existing shareholders, will retain the remaining 45-percent ownership stake.
“Entering the European ski market has been a long-term strategic priority for Vail Resorts,” says Vail Resorts CEO Kirsten Lynch. “We are excited to be partnering with ASA and investing our capital and resources to support the ongoing development of Andermatt-Sedrun into one of the premier alpine destination resorts in Europe.”
The deal is expected to close prior to the 2022-’23 ski season and VR plans to include unrestricted, unlimited access to Andermatt-Sedrun on next season’s full Epic Pass. Epic Local Pass holders will gain 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 area’s interconnected mountains of Andermatt, Sedrun, and Gemstock, though Disentis, a fourth connected mountain, remains independently owned and will not be included on the Epic Pass. Nevertheless, the newly acquired VR terrain is sizeable and includes over 10 miles of high alpine skiing on Switzerland’s famed Oberalp Pass between Andermatt and Sedrun.
All that doesn’t come cheap. VR reported the deal amounts to a roughly $160 million investment on their part, with $42 million of that sum being paid to ASA and $118 million flagged for capital investments to improve the guest experience at Andermatt-Sedrun. Most recently, on Dec. 31, 2021, Vail Resorts closed on 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 gutsy move for the beleaguered Vail Resorts considering its position and standing within the North American ski market. On the one hand, this European acquisition is an enticing addition to the Epic Pass and may just convince disgruntled Epic Pass holders to one-up for another season, despite the woes they experienced across VR’s North American resorts during the 2021-’22 season. On the other hand, Epic Pass holders may question this sizable investment overseas when capital investments are clearly needed at a number of VR-owned resorts right here at home. (Vail did just announce plans to increase minimum wage for North American employees to $20/hour—a 30 percent increase.)
Not to mention how Andermatt-Sedrun locals may feel about being folded into the VR portfolio. According to former owner and operator ASA, it’s good news.
“Vail Resorts is the ideal partner for our goal of developing Andermatt into The Prime Alpine Destination,” said Samih Sawiris, majority owner of ASA. “With Vail Resorts’ additional capital investment in the resort, deep expertise in successful operations of integrated mountain destinations, and the company’s impressive marketing capabilities and destination guest reach, Vail Resorts will provide a significant boost to the development of Andermatt-Sedrun.”
Hopefully, the “significant boost” from being included on the Epic Pass doesn’t overwhelm the Swiss resort as it has others. For now, VR promises to pump money into the resort but otherwise leave it be, retaining “all employees, the 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 to welcome Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, Epic Day Pass, and Epic Local pass holders to experience the resort’s charming villages, alpine terrain, and extensive amenities as we look to create an even stronger offering for skiers and riders in Europe.”
This story was first published by SKI.