Vail's Midwest Conquest: Why Vail is Buying Feeder Hills in the Midwest // Ski Industry News

Vail's Midwest Conquest: Vail is Buying Midwestern Feeder Hills

Remember that article we recently published about the importance of feeder hills? Well, apparently Vail has also taken notice of their significance. The other day, the Wall Street Journal published an article that discusses Vail's most recent purchases: two midwestern feeder hills. In Michigan, Vail purchased Mt. Brighton, a local feeder hill within range of Detroit. Afton Alps was also purchased by Vail, and is a feeder area located near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

So why would Vail waste their time trying to profit off of small mom and pop ski hills in the midwest? Well, the article goes on to explain that it's part of a bigger plan by the resort to bring customers from the midwest to their resort by giving season's pass holders discounted or free lift tickets to their resort. At the same time, keeping midwestern feeder hills open helps ensure that the next generation of skiers will be just as numerous as our current one.

One thing we always like to take a look at with articles like this, is what are the implications? Is this the kind of thing that we'll be seeing more of in the future? If we could see 50 years down the line, would almost all of our ski resorts be owned by just a few mega-corporations, similar to how the craft-brewing industry is being slowly consolidated? Or, on the flip side, will these smaller feeder hills start get the jump on consolidation, and start teaming up to avoid being purchased by mega resorts? One association, the Mountain Rider's Alliance, is already starting to do this by purchasing struggling resorts, and turning them into individual Co-Ops that operate under one parent company. And here's probably the most significant question yet- Does it matter if these feeder hills are being purchased by large mountains if it means that they can keep their doors open?

By the way, check out our favorite quote from the article:

Mr. Katz said Vail took a straw poll of its executives while considering this move: "We all learned to ski at these small resorts."

In our feeder hills article, we made the same argument about feeder hills providing the industry with the best talent. Well, there you have it. Straight from the horses (or, uh, "Katz") mouth: feeder hills have a tremendous impact on the ski industry.

You can check out the full article from the Wall Street Journal Right here.


Written by on 1/30/14