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Major resort operator buying largest North American ski area

By: KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press
August 8, 2016 Updated: August 9, 2016 at 2:39 pm
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DENVER — The largest resort operator in North America is buying the continent's biggest ski area, the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Vail Resorts Inc. announced Monday that it was purchasing Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc., the Canadian ski resort company, for $1.06 billion, adding to its aggressive expansion.

Located in British Columbia, Whistler Blackcomb is the largest and most visited ski resort in North America. Colorado's Vail is frequently the most visited ski resort in the U.S.

Two years ago, Vail Resorts bought Utah's Park City Mountain Resort for $182.5 million and merged it with a neighboring resort. It operates nine mountain resorts and two ski areas in the U.S. and Australia.

The new deal is expected to close in the fall.

"Whistler Blackcomb is one of the most iconic mountain resorts in the world with an incredible history, passionate employees and a strong community," Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said in a statement.

Shares of Whistler Blackcomb rose above $27.36 ($36 Canadian) each in Toronto. In New York, Vail Resorts stock also was trading at the highest rate in at least a decade, reaching about $154 per share midday.

Under the transaction, Vail Resorts would acquire all the stock of Whistler Blackcomb, whose shareholders would receive $13.30 (Canadian $17.50) per share in cash and 0.0975 share of Vail Resorts' common stock, for a total value of $27.36 (Canadian $36) per share.

"This relationship will bring greater resources to support our current operations and our ambitious growth plans," Whistler CEO Dave Brownlie said in a statement.

Brownlie will stay on as Whistler Blackcomb's chief operating officer and will become a member of the senior leadership team of Vail Resorts' mountain division, the companies said.

"Vail Resorts intends to retain the vast majority of Whistler Blackcomb employees, while only impacting a few select areas where there may be duplication in corporate functions," the companies said.

Whistler Blackcomb will honor the resort's existing season passes. Vail Resorts plans to integrate Whistler into its Epic Season Pass for the 2017-18 winter season.

In addition to Vail and Park City, Vail Resorts operates Colorado's Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone ski resorts. In California, Vail operates Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood ski areas. It also has ski resorts in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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