DENVER — Arapahoe Basin, the popular ski area just beyond Loveland Pass known for its long ski season and smaller crowds, is set to be purchased by Alterra Mountain Company, the ski giant behind the Ikon Pass.
The deal is expected to close later this year. The details of the purchase were not disclosed.
It's the first time in nearly three decades A-Basin's ownership has changed hands. Dream Unlimited Corp. has owned the ski area since it spun off from Vail Resorts in 1997.
A-Basin has been an Ikon Pass partner since 2019, with passholders being able to access a limited number of days at A-Basin. This winter, a full Ikon Pass granted seven winter days at the resort with no blackout dates. Ikon Base and Base Plus passes gave passholders five days on the mountain, while the Ikon Session Pass allowed four days of access with blackout dates.
There will be no change to A-Basin’s access for the 2023-24 winter season, according to Alterra.
A-Basin history: A look at when the ski area was owned by dog food maker Purina
With the addition of A-Basin, Alterra’s portfolio grows to 18 North American ski resorts, including Colorado’s Steamboat and Winter Park resorts. Aspen, Copper Mountain and Eldora are also accessible via the Ikon Pass.
The response to Monday’s news on social media was opinionated. Commenters on A-Basin’s Facebook post about the sale had wide-ranging lamentations from fears of the resort losing its small-time appeal to monopoly concerns.
“The end of an era,” one commenter wrote.
“Sad news,” another wrote. “Always thought A-Basin would stay strong and independent and awesome.”
“Antitrust laws don’t exist for certain industries I guess,” one person wrote. “Heartbreaking honestly.”
Alan Henceroth, the chief operating officer of Arapahoe Basin, will continue in his role after the deal closes. He has been with A-Basin for 36 years.
“Whenever we do something big here, there's anxiety among our guests because they think we're really going to change the place," said Henceroth. “The team that runs A-Basin is sticking around, and we're committed to continuing to make the Basin a wonderful and special place. It's going to take some time, but I think in the end, people are going to continue to love and care for the Basin just the way they always have."
Henceroth said Alterra Mountain Company provides a lot of autonomy to the resorts they own.
“I know people are concerned. I don't think they need to be," said Henceroth. "I know that Alterra is really committed to keeping the Basin a wonderful and special place. So, don't worry.”
Still, Brian Fishman and Jillian Ardrey, who were backcountry skiing at A-Basin on Wednesday afternoon, can't help but worry.
“A lot of the other Alterra mountains don't have as good of an experience as here, and a lot of the other local mountains don't have as good of an experience as here. And so, it's hard to imagine this continuing to be an outstanding experience, just in the face of all that," Fishman said.
“It's basically a duopoly now, right, of two companies that own most of the skiing mountains and can provide prices that no one else can compete with. And so, they don't have to prioritize the skier experience in the same way as individual resorts do," Ardrey said.
Matt Lorelli is the managing editor for Powder Magazine, Bike Magazine, and Snowboarder Magazine.
“A Basin has that mom-and-pop vibe to it," said Lorelli. “The community there at A-Basin really speaks to that. It's a very tight-knit group of pass holders. Plus, they have a bunch of other people that come on a daily basis.”
Lorelli was shocked by the announcement that A-Basin was being bought by Alterra Mountain Company.
“In the immediate future, there are a lot of people online that are expressing concerns with if Alterra turns Arapahoe Basin into a full access pass for the Ikon Pass, you know, how that might change how many people are visiting the ski resort on a daily basis. That's definitely a factor," Lorelli said. “Some of the other Alterra resorts have had to deal with too many people trying to park and having to do parking reservations and such. So, you know, that I'm sure is a concern for some skiers as well.”
Justine Spence, who lives in Silverthorne, practically grew up at A-Basin.
“It's home. It's a community," said Spence. “While it's always a bit shocking and jarring to hear large purchases and acquisitions like that, at the same time too, I think the change is an inevitability in the ski and snowboard industry and we have to adapt and change and morph."
Spence is confident the authenticity of A-Basin can be maintained throughout the new ownership.
“We all just need to embrace it and take a deep breath," said Spence. "It's going to be okay.”