Why does it make sense for one company to own all of the ski resorts?

Philip Greenspun's Weblog 2017-03-14

Vail Resorts bought Whistler last year for about $1 billion. This year they bought Stowe (Denver Post) for $50 million. Why does this make economic sense? Where is the economy of scale in running a ski resort? Especially when they are not geographically proximate. Vail doesn’t manufacture lifts, skis, or boots. They have a pass program that is good for multiple mountains across North America, but that could be arranged by agreement among resorts owned by separate companies.

I don’t think this is how it works in other parts of the hospitality industry. There is an economy of scale in establishing a hotel brand, but individual hotels are usually owned by separate groups of investors (i.e., two “Four Seasons” or “Marriott” hotels are unlikely to share ownership).

What’s different about skiing? Could it be that it is actually not that different? One reason why hotel owners contract ot Marriott or Four Seasons is that those companies are good at training people. So maybe it is the same for ski resorts? The big operator can send people from an already-efficient mountain like Vail or Beaver Creek to Stowe and achieve operating efficiencies via better-trained employees? But if so, why does the company that trains and markets also have to physically own the mountain, the lifts, etc.?