Victorian ski resorts Falls Creek and Hotham bought by US giant Vail

US operator Vail Resorts is expanding its control over Australia’s ski fields with a deal to buy Victoria’s Falls Creek and Hotham resorts from UK-listed Merlin Entertainments, for a purchase price of about $174 million.

It comes after the New York-listed Vail in 2015 acquired the Perisher Ski Resort in New South Wales from James Packer and another private company for $176.6m.

“We are thrilled to welcome the guests and employees of both Falls Creek and Hotham into the Vail Resorts family and further strengthen our position in Australia, which is one of our most important international markets,” said Vail chairman and chief executive Rob Katz.

“The acquisition of the leading mountain resorts in Victoria is part of our continued strategy to drive season pass sales and build loyalty with guests from around the world.

“After our success connecting with skiers in Sydney and across New South Wales since acquiring Perisher in 2015, we have a huge opportunity to create a deeper connection with Melbourne and broader Victorian skiers and riders.”

The Falls Creek Alpine Resort and Hotham Alpine Resort, two of Victoria’s largest ski resorts, are expected to generate incremental earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of approximately $18m during the first 12 months of operation following the acquisition, assuming conditions are normal.

The acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approval, will mean that the 2019 Epic Australia Pass and 2018-19 Epic Pass will include unlimited, unrestricted access to Falls Creek, in addition to the access it already offers to skiing in Japan, Canada and the US.

It is also expected to include unlimited, unrestricted access to Hotham, subject to certain approvals.

Vail Resorts operates 15 mountain resorts and three urban ski areas worldwide through its subsidiaries, including Keystone and Crested Butte in Colorado, Park City in Utah, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood Lake Tahoe, and Whistler Blackcomb in Canada.

Merlin’s holdings include Madame Tussauds and Legoland.

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