Are Steamboat Springs and Winter Park Ski Resorts in Financial Trouble

Date: Jan. 22nd, 2010
Contact: Denver Travel Examiner Joseph Sobin

Steamboat Springs is one of the most popular resort destinations in the State of Colorado. While not as popular as Vail and Aspen, Steamboat Springs located 3 hours west of Denver has been a fixture on the Colorado winter sports scene for years and has produced multiple Olympians in downhill, slalom and ski jumping (training at Howelsen Hill). Former Olympian Billy Kidd is a fixture on the Steamboat ski scene taking guests on runs throughout the season.

Buried in the financial newspapers, creditors have begun foreclosure proceedings against Intrawest, the operator of Steamboat Springs Ski and Mountain Resort, Winter Park as well as the operator of Whistler/Blackcomb (North America’s largest ski resort, Vail is North America’s largest single mountain resort), host for the 2010 Winter Games.

Creditors holding $1.14 billion in Intrawest debt posted notices in the Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers this week announcing an auction including a stake in Whistler Blackcomb to be auctioned off in the middle of the games in February.

The legal notice announced that Wilmington Trust FSB would auction "100 percent of the limited liability company membership interests in Intrawest Holdings." Adding, "Purchase of the membership interests of Intrawest Holdings would result in the indirect ownership of certain real property and equity interests," read the notice.

The advertisement identified locally Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado, Squaw Valley in California, Sandestin in Florida, Lake Las Vegas, Stratton in Vermont, Mont Tremblant in Quebec and "partnership interests" in Whistler Blackcomb.

While Intrawest is a well-known and respected Canadian based resort operator (once having more extensive holdings in Colorado including resorts in Summit County), it is the parent company of Intrawest, Fortress Investment Group which seems to be having financial issues. Fortress Investment Group bought Intrawest in a leveraged buyout in 2006. It has been reported that Fortress has been trying to renegotiate its debt since missing a $524 million payment on a $1.4 billion loan during the fall of 2009.

Intrawest has put out the following statement: "There have been inaccurate and misleading media reports surrounding Intrawest today. Fortress Investment Group continues to own and control Intrawest and all of its properties. Serious discussions with Intrawest's lenders are ongoing regarding refinancing, and the company continues to operate 'business as usual' at all of its resort properties."

Of note, other ski resorts operators have been down this path and it is not unprecedented. Vail Resorts former managing entity Vail Associates had been through past bankruptcies including multiple ownership changes, yet the resort continued to operate. Here in Colorado it is unlikely the resort operations of Steamboat Springs and Winter Park will be adversely affected by the foreclosure notices and proceedings.