Powder Struggle: The Future of Mount Sunapee Resort
The future of the Mount Sunapee resort is under scrutiny by residents and formal review by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. Tim and Diane Mueller, who have run the resort for more than 20 years, announced in June that they would sell the resort, along with their other two ski properties (Okemo in Vermont and Crested Butte in Montana), to Vail Resorts Inc. for $82 million. Since Sunapee is operated under the terms of a lease from the state, the sale must be approved by New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.
A titan in the ski resort industry, Vail operates some of the most well-known ski resorts in the U.S. and abroad. In 2017, the company’s holdings extended to 42,547 acres, it employed approximately 30,000 people and it generated $1.9 billion in sales and revenue. The sale, if approved, will bring mountain operations on an industrial scale to the Upper Valley, heating up the competition for year-round visitors.
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While Vail’s CEO Mark Katz is credited with making forward-looking investments in his resorts and in stewarding their natural environments, it’s a mixed bag. Communities surrounding Vail ski areas are concerned about skyrocketing real estate prices, gated communities and the ever-posh lifestyle that accompanies globe-trotting skiers.
Worldwide ski resort visitation was facilitated by Katz 10 years ago, when he introduced the company’s “Epic Pass,” a deal that provides skiers access to all its resorts, in addition to hefty summer discounts.
“Everything we do is driven by the spectacular natural environments we operate,” Katz has said, but what Vail’s arrival ultimately will mean for Mount Sunapee and the surrounding towns of Goshen, Newbury and Sunapee remains to be seen. State officials plan to hold a public information session on July 25.
— Laurel Stavis