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Stars and Stripes in the Swiss Alps

Forget about local flavour and traditional food.‍ Vail Resorts owns 40+ resorts across the globe, now also in Europe.Stars and Stripes in the Swiss Alps

Americans do it bigger!

If you've ever skied in Andermatt, Switzerland, you might have not realised that you were a guest of the Americans. The same would be true if you recently skied in Crans-Montana.

Indeed, both ski resorts are operated by the American giant Vail Resorts.

Forget about local flavour and traditional food. Vail Resorts owns and operates more than 40 resorts across the US, Canada, Australia, and Switzerland. Their acquisitions of the Andermatt and Crans-Montana ski resorts in March 2022 and November 2023 respectively, marked their entry into the European market.

In Andermatt, they quickly injected millions to upgrade lifts, improve snow-making, enhance hospitality and more.

But more importantly, they included the Swiss resort into their signature international format, the Epic Pass.

With the Epic Pass, skiers can choose to ski at any of the 40+ resorts owned by the company. This allows them to literally follow the snow across continents!

Given that day-passes at American resorts are priced nearly $300, a season Epic Pass costing around $900 looks like a bargain. For a New Yorker, flying 6-7 hours to Zurich or 4 to Colorado plus the driving doesn’t make a big difference.

With the number of overnight stays by North Americans quadrupling in the last year, it’s now common to hear Yankee accents on the slopes of Andermatt.

The entry of the Americans has driven up real estate prices, by 12% in the last year, reaching CHF 18-19k per square meter. International companies, such as the Egyptian-Montenegrin-Swiss Orascom Development, are undertaking major real estate projects in the area. Crans-Montana will probably follow suit.

The model of large public companies operating multiple ski resorts is new to Europe.

In fact, most European resorts are managed by local entities. For example, the Dolomiti Superski area in Italy and the Arlberg area in Austria, among the largest of the Alps, are managed by local companies bearing the same name.

An exception is the French Compagnie des Alpes, a public company listed in Paris which operates some of largest ski resorts in France.

Due to climate change, running ski resorts is becoming an expensive endeavour. It requires increasingly larger capital, something Americans don’t lack of.

However, this might come at the expense of the local alpine favour, which I believe is essential for an enjoyable ski holiday in Europe.

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