Ski resort buying binge over for Aspen Skiing Co.?

As the owners of Aspen Skiing Co. near completion of purchasing Intrawest Resorts LLC and Mammoth Resorts in the next few weeks, it remains to be seen if the buying binge is over.

Steamboat and Mammoth ski areas are the big prizes in the two acquisitions orchestrated by affiliates of Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners. But Aspen Skiing Co.’s development of a Limelight Hotel in Ketchum, Idaho, has fueled speculation among some observers of the ski industry that Skico covets Sun Valley as well.

“That rumor has been out there for a long time,” Skico president and CEO Mike Kaplan said last week. There is no purchase being pursued, he said.

Skico spent $70 million acquiring land and building a 99-room hotel at the base of the iconic ski area. The Limelight in Ketchum opened last ski season. The project also has 14 condominiums.

Aspen Skiing Co. President and CEO Mike Kaplan said Skico’s business model for the Limelight in Ketchum never depended on a bigger presence in Sun Valley.

A source in the Aspen hotel industry, who didn’t want to be identified by name because of business relations with Skico, said that size of investment only makes sense if Skico operates the ski area and has access to the customer base. It can help drive business to its hotel, the source said.

But Kaplan said Skico’s business model for the Limelight in Ketchum never depended on a bigger presence in the ski resort. The money raised by the sale of the condos underwrites the construction of the project and reduces the amount of invested capital, he said.

So far, 11 of the 14 condos have sold at prices ranging from $1.5 million to $3.9 million, according to Don Schuster, Skico vice president of hospitality.

Ron Throupe, associate professor at the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management, Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, said it is plausible that Skico saw an opportunity to open a hotel in Ketchum without a grander design of buying the ski…

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