Vail Resorts to Invest $10M in Afton Alps Ski Area

Upgrades include improving snowmaking in order to open Afton Alps earlier in the season and adding a better snow surface.

Three months after buying Afton Alps, Vail Resorts, Inc., said Wednesday that it plans to invest nearly $10 million in the Hastings ski area.
Broomfield, Colorado-based Vail said that upgrades include improving snowmaking in order to open Afton Alps earlier in the season and adding a better snow surface. It also plans to create “state-of-the-art” terrain parks with extensive new features and tow ropes—and it will modernize the base area facilities.
Work will begin this summer, and a company spokeswoman told the Star Tribune that Vail plans to get as much completed as possible for next season.
News of the upgrades doesn’t come as a surprise. In early December, Vail announced that it had agreed to pay $20 million in cash to purchase both Afton Alps and Mount Brighton ski area in Michigan. At the time, the company vowed to invest in both ski areas, but it didn’t disclose how much money it would spend.
In addition to announcing the investment, Vail also said Wednesday that it’s selling its Epic Pass and Epic Local Pass season passes to Minnesota skiers for next season. The $689 Epic Pass provides unlimited and unrestricted access to all nine Vail resorts—and the $529 Epic Local Pass provides such access to four resorts and more restricted access to others. An unlimited ski pass for Afton Alps, meanwhile, costs $399.
Afton Alps has 48 trails on nearly 300 acres, 18 lifts, four base areas, and an 18-hole golf course. According to Vail, it is the largest ski area near a major city in the Midwest.
Vail, a public company, reported about $1 billion in revenue for the fiscal year that ended in July. The company said Wednesday that net revenue for the second quarter that ended in January totaled $422.5 million—up 13.2 percent from the same period the prior year; net income, meanwhile, totaled $60.6 million, representing a 30.5 percent jump.
Vail’s entrance into Minnesota marks a sea change in the collegial local ski business. Don McClure, general manager at competitor Buck Hill in Burnsville, recently told Twin Cities Business that vertically integrating Vail’s customer base from the Midwest is an “intelligent maneuver”—one that he expects to “bring a level of sophistication to the market, as well as increased competition to the Twin Cities’ outlying ski areas.” To read more about the impact that Vail’s purchase of Afton Alps could have on the local ski business in a story in the magazine’s March issue, click here.