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Vail Resorts finalizes acquisition of WB

WB pass holders to receive five days of skiing at any of Vail's U.S. resorts this winter


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It's official: Whistler Blackcomb (WB) is now wholly owned by Vail Resorts.

The $1.4-billion friendly takeover by the Colorado-based company was subject to the customary closing conditions following Investment Canada Act approval earlier this month. The transaction officially closed Monday, Oct. 17.

"Whistler Blackcomb is one of the most iconic mountain resorts in the world and we are tremendously excited to welcome the resort and the talented team who work there to the Vail Resorts family," said Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz in a release.

Katz has assured that "the vast majority" of WB staff will stay on with the company, and that day-to-day operations will continue largely unchanged.

"(Whistler Blackcomb CEO) Dave Brownlie and the team at Whistler Blackcomb have built an excellent operation that delivers amazing guest experiences, and we intend to continue to support that work while maintaining the resort's unique brand and Canadian identity," Katz added.

"We look forward to working with the Whistler Blackcomb team to ensure the long-term success of the resort and the community."

To mark the deal's closing, Vail Resorts announced it would be offering five days of skiing or snowboarding at any of its U.S. resorts to Whistler Blackcomb Unlimited season pass holders. Certain holiday restrictions apply. WB is also bringing the Unlimited pass back on sale at the early-bird rate until Oct. 30 so buyers can take advantage of this offer.

But not everyone was thrilled with the bargain. Whistler Chamber of Commerce CEO Danny Tuff said he was "a little disappointed" to learn that early-bird pricing was being extended during a time of year when the chamber counts on new arrivals in town to purchase a Spirit Pass. Part of the Whistler Experience program, the Spirit Pass offers a season's pass, among other perks, at a discounted rate of $1,439 for local employees who go through the chamber's customer service training course. The early-bird rate for an Unlimited season's pass is $1,499.

"We were expecting (pass sales) to pick up in the next few weeks, and while there's still some savings, it's going to be a little bit more difficult to provide that competitive pricing against the early-bird pricing," said Tuff, who added that he was not informed of the early-bird offer before it was announced.

"The Whistler Experience program is so much bigger than all of us. It really impacts the customer-service levels in Whistler. By investing in the chamber and Whistler Experience, all the stakeholders here are investing in themselves. I'm hoping, and I'm thinking positively, that Vail (Resorts) is taking that into consideration with their pricing strategy," Tuff added.

Katz and his wife Elana Amsterdam also made news last week with the announcement that they would donate US$2.63 million to 12 non-profits in communities where Vail Resorts operates, including $333,000 to the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation.

Mei Madden, executive director of the foundation, which provides financial support to Sea to Sky organizations, with a special emphasis on youth and family programs, said the non-profit was "overwhelmed by this unparalleled personal donation.

"Our local Sea to Sky communities, and especially our children and youth, will benefit enormously and feel the positive effects from these programs for many years to come," she said in a release.

Meanwhile, as skiers and snowboarders gear up for another winter, WB is reminding the community that both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are closed until the scheduled opening day of Nov. 24.

"With the recent snowfall in the alpine and the snowline creeping down, Whistler Blackcomb has encountered a number of people hiking up the mountain in search of some early-season turns," a release stated.

"Whistler Blackcomb would like to advise the public that for their own safety, access is NOT permitted at this time. Anyone caught hiking up the mountain within the ski area boundaries will be asked to turn around and leave the property immediately."