Solitude on a Sunday.by Ryan Freitas
And then there were two.
Vail Resorts buys Canyons; Park City’s Ian Cumming buys Snowbird; Vail Resorts buys Park City Mountain Resort and today Deer Valley got into the Ski Area Monopoly game with their announcement that they have purchased Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
“It’s coincidental that we’ve had four ownership changes in Utah in the last year,” said Deer Valley’s Bob Wheaton after discussing the various reasons behind his resort’s interest in Solitude. “I don’t think it is a trend though. It’s recognition from individual resorts that we’re all in the same industry and we need to cooperate at a higher level than we have had to 20/30 years ago when all the independent mountain people started up the resorts and operated them. They weren’t interested in cooperation (back then). That has certainly changed.”
The elite Park City resort will take over operations of what has always been considered an affordable, Utah locals’ secret beginning May 1, 2015. “We are not looking to rebrand Solitude. Nor should we,” said Wheaton. “Solitude has a strong brand already. We are looking to be there just to help and to integrate (the operations and marketing). It’s an incredible resort just as it is.”
But some Utah skiers worry that change is coming. “There goes the affordability of one of my two favorite resorts. I bet the yurts along the X-country trails turn into multi-million dollar condos soon too,” commented one Salt Lake Tribune reader when the press release surfaced.
“The first thing that popped into my head was that my favorite resort, which has historically been one of the best bargains in the Wasatch, will likely have their prices trend up to similar territory of the fancy (and accordingly priced) Deer Valley,” commented Redd Bradshaw on Solitude’s Facebook page. “Deer Valley day passes are $40-46 more expensive per day, and their season pass is about three times the going rate for a Solitude full season pass. Yeah it’s nice and swanky, but that’s not what I ski for. I don’t care for corduroy groomed slopes and caviar. I ski for the steeps, the powder, the serenity of silent first tracks, and a slew of other things that I’m not sure this merger will bring to my favorite resort. This will be my 29th season at Solitude. I’m hopeful that I can have many more good years there and I don’t get priced out of my home-resort.”
Still another Trib reader posted, “Truly reiterates my idea that Utah is just a playground for the rich to pass around resort to resort. Nuts to our water, nuts to those that work to see beauty. Hey! Let us add ziplines from one peak to the next so we can attract tourists.”
Wheaton did confirm that although prices and policies (i.e. allowing snowboarding at Solitude and maintaining the Sol-Bright connection) remain in place for 2014/15, there will be future improvements. “We’ll see some reinvestment and reinvigorating and a better product for both local and destination skiers,” he hinted. “We’re darned excited and we’ve been watching Solitude over the ridge for a lot of years. We recognize that the market that Solitude has truly is complementary to Deer Valley and I would like to think that Deer Valley’s market would be complimentary to Solitude as well.” In other words, Deer Valley would be able to grab both the destination and local markets with this deal.
“Deer Valley is acquiring a gem. I’m sure the game-plan is to keep what has worked for Solitude over the years with loyal followers and make change only were needed,” posted Robert M. Stianche Jr. “I’m a firm believer that the positive will outweigh any negative.”
Many, however, are excited by the acquisition if only because it keeps Solitude out of Vail Resorts’ hands. Matt Farinelli posted, “This could have easily been Vail or Powdr Corp. This seems like a win for the Wasatch.”
Todd Wake commented “My two favorite Utah resorts. Hopefully they can maintain their character. Love to ski both, love the food at DV and brown bagging at Solitude. Thank God DV bought Solitude before Vail got a hold of it.”
It will still be business as usual for the Park City and Big Cottonwood resorts as it still requires a one-hour car ride to get from one hill to the other; at least until One Wasatch becomes a reality. But it looks like Utah skiing just took one giant step closer to the interconnected reality when you consider the remaining link between Park City and BCC (Guardsman/Bonanza Flats) may be up for sale soon. Could Boyne’s Brighton Resort be the next sitting duck for one of the two Park City resort companies to gobble up? And then there would be one…..