The Future of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain: A Speculative Article // Ski Industry News
In the wake of fraud allegations at Vermont’s Jay Peak and Burke Mountain resorts, questions have swirled around the future of the resorts. Currently under federally appointed receivership, we’ve been reassured that both resorts are continuing to operate as usual and should open next year as scheduled. Still, a federal receivership is a temporary situation and as soon as the whole mess is sorted out, it’ll be time to transfer ownership of the resorts to a permanent owner. At the moment, neither resort has a clear option lined up, opening the door to unlimited speculation. Thankfully, there’s nothing we love more than a good old fashion speculation session. So without further ado, here’s a list of 5 ridiculous, and not so ridiculous, futures for Jay Peak and Burke Mountain resorts!
#1: A Ski Area Conglomerate Like Vail Purchases the Resorts
To get the ball rolling here, we’ll start off with one possibility which actually seems pretty likely: one of skiing’s mega parent companies buys one, or both resorts. If you’ve been paying attention to the ski industry lately, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that companies like Vail or Powdr Corp have been scooping up ski areas of all sizes and geographic location. There are several factors for this trend, including increased buying power for things like insurance and utilities, as well as growing the list of participating resorts included in multi-resort passes like the Epic Pass and the Mountain Collective Pass. Related to the growing popularity of Multi Passes, is the investment in ski areas that will bring skiers to some of the parent company’s larger resorts. This kind of thinking is perfectly exhibited in Vail’s decision to buy feeder hills in the Midwest, in hopes of growing the sports popularity and luring some of these small town skiers into full vacations at one of their destination resorts. Currently, only mountains in Southern Vermont are owned by parent companies, so scooping up a couple of resorts in Northern Vermont while their price tag is presumably pretty cheap definitely seems feasible.
Likelihood Rating: 9
This is almost certainly what will happen. It's easy, it's seamless, and with the ongoing conglomeratization of the ski industry, it's bound to happen. Plus, you can bet these resorts will be an incredible deal when they go on sale.
#2: The State of Vermont Purchases and Runs Both Resorts
Next up: the state of Vermont purchases both resorts, operating them as state run facilities. Seem crazy? Well, it’s not really. If the future starts looking bleak for these two resorts, there’s a good chance that the state will step in and save them. The fact of the matter is, the two resorts already have a strong infrastructure and customer base, so it’s not like new owners would be starting from square one. Plus, one of the biggest issues raised in the days following the fraud announcement, was the impact that the resorts closures would have on local economies. Presently, both Jay Peak and Burke Resorts are big employers in the area, and their closure would undoubtedly mean a spike in unemployment rates. Additionally, there’s a number of area businesses that exist almost solely because of the resorts. Things like locally owned hotels, inns, and hostels, as well as ski and bike shops would surely be hit hard if the resorts were to close. Above all, a state owned facility could also be the beneficiary of tax breaks, allowing even a resort that’s currently on the ropes to keep its proverbial head above water.
Likelihood Rating: 7
With so many politicians involved in launching the EB-5 program in the Northeast Kingdom, there's no way they'll let the area's economy fail as a result. If this is what they have to do, they will.
#3: Both Resorts Become Skier Owned Co-Ops
When all else fails, all hail the co-op. For those unaware, a cooperative (co-op) is a business model in which ownership of a business is divvied up amongst members who have bought into the business. In other words, a ski area co-op would be owned by the community who skis there and operated by people who are selected by the co-op members. Currently, there are only a handful of co-op owned ski resorts, but the model is increasing in popularity as sort of a reaction to the consolidation of the ski industry by parent companies (such as those mentioned in possibility #1). Here in Vermont, Mad River Glen is an example of a co-op that’s been successfully run as such for over 20 years (since 1995). Given the passion for skiing that exists in Vermont’s Northeast kingdom, as well as the local economy’s reliance on the resorts, it’s totally feasible that a co-op could organize to take over ownership of the two resorts. This one’s probably just as likely as a state-owned solution as it would likely be plan B in the event that a new owner doesn’t step forward for the resorts. The bottom line here is that it’s unlikely that the residents of the area would allow their local resorts to shutter.
Likelihood Rating: 7
It's probably not the most likely scenario, but it could definitely happen in a place like Vermont.
#4: Jack Ma of Alibaba Fame Purchases the Resorts
You’ve heard the term “expect the unexpected” before, right? Well, with three plausible theories down, it’s time to dive into a couple of more “unexpected” outcomes. On that note, we raise the possibility that Jack Ma, the Chinese CEO and Founder of Alibaba, could purchase the resorts. Known to some as the Amazon of Asia, Alibaba sells literally everything- including "Good reputation cost-effective winter paulownia wood core touring skis" by the hundreds. Plus, the guy’s got money. Like over $30 Billion according to Bloomberg magazine. Combine that with his philanthropic purchase of 28,100 acres in New York’s Adirondack park as well as foreign investor situation at the resorts, and one could theorize that the ingredients are there. Heck, the guy could potentially go all Donald Trump on us and simply buy out all of the other EB-5 investors, giving him a large portion of the investment and a clear path to U.S. citizenship. Then he’d be in the United States as a citizen with some serious equity in the resorts, making a full on coup totally feasible. The cherry on top? Ma is known for his environmental conservation efforts, and as we’re all painfully aware, the ski industry is highly reliant on environmental stability. This could be an in for Ma to dive into a new industry and take on climate change with a vengeance. Or, maybe not. He’s probably already content with providing the world with a place to buy really strange costumes and dog statues. Only time will tell I guess.
Likelihood Rating: 1
It's not going to happen. Except, it could? No, no it couldn't.
#5: Elon Musk Purchases the Resorts and Continues Experimenting:
Last but not least, we come to a prospect regarding one of the most ambitious men in America: Elon Musk. You’ve probably heard the name before, but in case you’re struggling to bring context to it, let us help you out. Over the last 30 or so years, Elon Musk has played key roles in bringing the modern world into the future. Starting with his early efforts to rid the world of paper money (PayPal) up to his current day efforts of landing man on Mars (SpaceX), eliminating gas from cars (Tesla), and convincing us to travel the world using bank teller technology (Hyperloop), Musk is a man hellbent on bringing modern man into the future. So what do we think he’d want to do with a couple of ski resorts in Northern Vermont? Turn them into snow globes obviously. No, we don’t mean start earthquakes that’ll cause it to snow- just the weather controlled dome part really. I mean, controlling the weather is one of the last unconquered frontiers of Earth, and one that’s been dreamed about for years. Plus, with the relationship between climate change and ski resorts more tenuous than ever, the timing is ripe with economic and environmental opportunity.
Can you imagine a world where there is no more guessing though? Where ski resorts can plan and schedule powder days as well as bluebird days? Well, neither can we really, but if there’s one man who can, it’s Elon Musk- if only he’d stop being so focused on things that really matter.
Likelihood Rating: 0
Honestly guys, there's no way this one happens.
What do you all think though? Do you have any other ideas, whether realistic or ridiculous that might be in the cards for these two resorts? Let us know in the comments below!