Vail to face tough questions over Mount Sunapee purchase
NEWBURY, N.H. (AP) — Ahead of next week’s meeting on Vail Resorts proposed takeover of the Mount Sunapee ski area, some concerned residents want assurances that the park will be protected.
Vail announced June 4 that it would be acquiring the operating rights to three ski areas owned by the Mueller family: Sunapee, Okemo in Vermont and Crested Butte in Colorado. The purchase price is $82 million.
In New Hampshire, the attorney general’s office says the deal can’t proceed without state approval. Thus, a public hearing will be held Wednesday evening at the resort’s Sunapee Lodge in Newbury.
The sale has some supporters of the park worried. They are expected to call on Vail to ensure that its takeover includes plans to offer affordable outdoor recreation while protecting the park’s natural resources.
“As we move forward into the next chapter of Mount Sunapee State Park’s future, it is vitally important for the proposed new operator and leaseholder, to support non-fee based and balanced public use of our park,” said Steve Russell, the president of Friends of Mt. Sunapee, which advocates for the protection of Mount Sunapee State Park.
“Providing affordable outdoor recreation and preserving our state’s natural resources including Mount Sunapee’s rare and ancient forests are achievable goals,” he added.
Vail’s purchase of the Sunapee and Okemo ski areas would bolster the company’s holdings on the East Coast following last year’s $41 million deal to purchase Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont. The company currently owns 11 mountain resorts and three urban ski areas mostly in the United States.
“In New England, where we are currently solely represented by Stowe Mountain Resort, the addition of Okemo’s family-oriented programs and Mount Sunapee’s unique location less than 90 minutes from Boston will create a regional hub that will greatly enhance the experience and variety of options for our guests,” Liz Biebl, director of Brand Communications for Vail Resorts, said.
Once the purchases are finalized, Biebl said the company is planning to invest $35 million over the next two years in Sunapee, Okemo, Crested Butte. The company is also buying Stevens Pass Resort in Washington.
“Upon closing of the acquisitions, we plan to review and learn more about the specific operations at each resort, listen to key stakeholders and determine what will provide the greatest benefit to our guests,” Biebl said.