The unholy alliance between the two largest ski area operators and mountain real estate developers in North America came to an amicable end just before Christmas.
Intrawest Corporation and Vail Resorts agreed to divide the remaining developable assets at the Vail-owned Keystone ski area in Colorado. Vail will also drop a lawsuit against Intrawest, which will allow the Vancouver-based company to proceed with development at Winter Park, Colorado.
The Keystone Partnership was originally formed between Intrawest and then-Keystone owner Ralston Purina in 1993. Under the partnership Intrawest developed the River Run village and other lands at Keystone while Ralston Purina operated the resort.
In 1997 Vail Resorts bought Keystone from Ralston Purina and became partners with Intrawest in real estate development.
Intrawest and Vail Resorts are rivals in the resort business. In addition to the Vail ski area Vail Resorts owns Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone ski areas in Colorado.
Intrawest owns Copper Mountain in Colorado, as well as nine other mountain resorts across North America, including Whistler-Blackcomb. The company is also developing a village at Snowmass in Aspen and since 2002 has operated Winter Park. Intrawest plans to develop a base village at Winter Park, which is owned by the city of Denver. Intrawests involvement in Winter Park spawned Vail Resorts lawsuit. The suit was based on a non-compete clause at Keystone which Vail Resorts said prohibited Intrawest from acquiring other ski resorts in proximity to Keystone.
Under the agreement reached Dec. 24, Vail Resorts and Intrawest will each receive parcels of developable land at Keystone, while Vail Resorts will also assume control of the partnerships existing commercial properties. Unsold standing inventory will remain in the partnership and proceeds of the sales of these condominium units will be distributed to the partners as sales occur. The partnership will be formally dissolved once the existing inventory has been sold.
For its part, Vail Resorts feels like it is finally gaining control of Keystone.
"This is good for us because we have feigned our ability to be in control of our own destiny at Keystone, and now we finally are in control," Adam Aron, Vail Resorts chairman and CEO told the Rocky Mountain News.
"Its a bit unnatural to have a real estate joint venture at Keystone with our single largest competitor."
An Intrawest spokesman said the company was pleased and excited to be moving forward at Winter Park.