What do international real estate firms, ski resort conglomerates, Chinese investors, hotel groups and a person Vermont skiers and riders might know best as Halley O’Brien’s husband all have in common?
They are all, apparently, looking at buying Jay Peak Resort.
In an August Jay Zoning Board meeting, Walter Elander, Jay Peak’s director of mountain planning and development, mentioned some of the parties who’ve been interested in buying Jay Peak, according to reporting by Alan J. Keays of vtdigger.com in “Alterra Eyes Jay Peak, Vail Takes a Pass.”
Elander talked to the board about the sale, including visits by potential buyers. Twenty six have signed non-disclosure agreements. According to the meeting minutes, some of the most interested parties are, Elander said:
“The first one is Ultara [sic-Alterra ], they possibly have the funds, second is FoSun (privately owned), third is Pacific Group, fourth is two different groups Snow Operating and a fund called Oz, fifth is AWH (privately owned),” the minutes stated. “He (Elander) stated Vale [sic-Vail] showed no interest in Jay Peak.”
Fosun is a Chinese investment firm. Considering that Jay Peak actively marketed the resort sought foreign investors in China for its EB-5 program (later deemed fraudulent), that should not be a surprise. Oz, assuming it is Oz Management (not an Opportunity Zone fund) is also an international investment firm. Pacific Group, based in Atlanta and AWH Real Estate are both real estate investment firms that focus on resorts. AWH recently bought the swank Topnotch Resort and Spa in Stowe and owns a number of other hotels, including the High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Alterra Mountain Company, the company that purchased Stratton in 2018 and recently invested more than $10 million into it, would seem like a natural choice. The conglomerate behind the Ikon Pass, Alterra owns or operates 14 resorts, including eastern Canadian resorts Mont Tremblant and Blue Mountain, as well as CMH Heliskiing, in the Canadian Rockies. Alterra’s big resorts out West, include Steamboat, Colo. and Squaw Valley and Mammoth Mountain in California. At present, Alterra’s Ikon pass is good at 41 ski areas, including, in Vermont at Stratton, with limited days at Killington/Pico and Sugarbush. Unlike Vail Resorts, Alterra has left the resorts it has purchased largely on their own, letting them retain their own personality, management teams and branding.
The last and most surprising may be Snow Operations. The company, which is led by long-time PSIA veteran Eric Lipton and brothers Joe and Patrick Hession, focuses on “terrain-based learning” and has been working with Jay Peak and resorts around the country to create learning programs and appropriate terrain challenges. CEO Joe Hession, 39, (who is married to Halley O’Brien a former communications manager for Mount Snow and now the hilarious —and Emmy-award-winning face of The Snow Report Show) is also the former general manager of Mountain Creek ski area in New Jersey. Hession, who grew up skiing at the New Jersey hill and has worked there in various roles since 2004, acquired a controlling interest in Mountain Creek in 2018.
Of course, that can all change. The song isn’t over until…
Opening photo courtesy Jay Peak.