Intrawest continues to grow, with the announcement this week the company has acquired the Colorado-based ski and snowboard equipment rental companies Breeze Inc. and Max Snowboards Inc. The two companies add 43 more stores to Intrawest’s existing network of 122 storefronts. Combined retail and rental revenues as a result of the acquisitions are projected to exceed $70 million. Breeze specializes in the rental of snow sports equipment and the sale of winter accessories. Max Snowboards, which was under the same management, rents regular and high performance snowboards and sells snowboard accessories. The companies have locations in Utah, Colorado, Oregon, California, Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada. Of particular interest to Intrawest is the relationships Breeze has developed with 200 tour operators, 8,000 travel agents and six airlines. The company operates a complete sales and reservation system, providing Intrawest with a strong position in the independent and tour-based destination business. "These acquisitions will be a perfect avenue to expand our successful rental and retail business," Hugh Smythe, president of Intrawest’s resort operations, said in a release. "Rentals and accessories have very high margins and lower risk than typical ski retailing like skis, boots and clothing," Smythe added. "These acquisitions give us significant penetration into this high-margin business and further establish Intrawest as one of North America’s leaders in winter retail and rental." According to Intrawest, typical ski retailers carrying large inventories are operating at approximately 40 per cent margins. By contrast, rental shops enjoy margins in excess of 80 per cent and accessories operate at margins ranging from 50 to 60 per cent, all with low inventory risk. The acquisition of Breeze and Max Snowboards further increases Intrawest’s purchasing power with suppliers. Last year Intrawest selected Rossignol and Salomon as the suppliers of choice for hardgoods at all nine of its North American resorts, a move which results in better pricing for Intrawest and guarantees high volumes of sales for the suppliers. Intrawest has invested time and money in its retail and rental operations, along with a healthy dose of creativity. The company has won the Canadian Innovative Retailer of the Year award two years in a row, in 1997 for the Can-Ski store in the Town Plaza and in 1998 for the Mountain Adventure Centre concept, which links on-mountain rental shops electronically to the 6,000 square foot main shop in the Pan Pacific Whistler. Intrawest has 33 storefronts in Whistler, producing more than $25 million in revenue. "Intrawest can take its expertise, and that of the Breeze/Max team, to further upgrade these outlets with the latest thinking in the rental/accessories business," said Sandy Black, vice president of retail operations for Intrawest. Lew and Tom Sapiro, the former owners of Breeze and Max Snowboards, will remain part of the management team.