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American Skiing Company, one of Intrawest’s primary competitors in the ski resort business, announced this week the sale of $150 million of convertible stock to a private equity partnership. ASC, which owns 11 resorts in the United States, was believed to have been financially stretched since borrowing heavily to finance its acquisitions of Steamboat in Colorado and Heavenly in Nevada just before the company went public in November 1997. Poor snow conditions at most of its resorts this past winter further hampered the company’s financial picture, leading to speculation it would sell off one or more of its resorts. However, this week’s announcement seems to stabilize the company. The investment by Oak Hill Capital Partners, L.P. gives the private equity partnership a 48.5 per cent stake in ASC. The investment will be used to reduce debt and provide capital for continued investment, including development of resort villages. An ASC spokesman said the company will not sell any of its resorts, although it would continue to divest itself of non-resort assets. ASC senior management, including company founder Les Otten, will control 26.7 per cent of the restructured company. Resorts owned by ASC include Attatish Bear Peak in New Hampshire; The Canyons in Utah; Haystack Ski Area, Killington, Mount Snow Resort, Sugarbush Resort and Pico in Vermont; Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine; Heavenly and Steamboat. ASC, Intrawest and Vail Resorts, which owns the Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone ski areas in Colorado, are the three largest players in the North American ski resort business. Vail expanding, rebuilding Despite environmental protests, Vail intends to have its new Two Elks Lodge open for Christmas. The original Two Elks was destroyed by arsonists last October. The Earth First environmental group claimed responsibility for the fire, which destroyed or damaged five buildings and two lifts at the top of Vail Mountain. Work on the new Two Elks Lodge, Vail’s showcase on-mountain restaurant, began in April. The new lodge will be 29,000 square feet, 4,000 square feet larger than the original building, giving the restaurant a seating capacity of 914. Whistler Mountain’s Roundhouse Lodge has a seating capacity of approximately 1,700. Vail has been building the lodge and working on its Category III expansion amid peaceful protests from environmental groups this month. The Category III expansion, which will extend Vail’s lift-serviced terrain to an adjacent mountain, has been the target of environmental groups for over a decade, who claim the project will destroy wildlife habitat. Earth First said last October’s arson attack was in response to the Category III expansion. Nine protesters were arrested the first week of July, and environmentalists have vowed to continue to oppose the expansion all summer. Aspen’s numbers are in How bad was Aspen’s winter? When the city can levy its own sales tax it’s easy to figure out. Combined taxable retail sales among Aspen businesses were down 3.1 per cent from January through April. That followed a 2 per cent decline in sales in December. Accommodation revenues were down 5.6 per cent over the previous year, restaurants and bars were down 2.3 per cent and specialty retail stores saw sales drop 5.5 per cent. The Aspen Skiing Company, which operates the four ski areas in Aspen, reported its skier and snowboard visits were down 8.2 per cent over the previous winter. Colorado, like most of North America, had a poor-average snow year.

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