Vail Resorts leads bidding for Whistler

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National Canadian paper The Globe and Mail is reporting today that Broomfield-based Vail Resorts is leading the bidding for Whistler-Blackcomb as current owner Intrawest angles to keep it in hand by restructuring its debt.

"There is a standing offer on Whistler from Vail Resorts, but Intrawest isn't willing to engage, with its own future so unclear," said one executive with ties to the Canadian and U.S. resort owners.

Executives at Intrawest and Fortress could not be reached yesterday. Vail Resorts declined to comment.

While Intrawest's moves look like too little, too late -- the auction for the entire company was set for Friday, but it was just delayed by a week as to avoid the spotlight glare from the Olympics  -- Vail Resorts is apparently not interested in buying all of the company's ski properties, only the crown jewels.

While Intrawest is strangled by a huge debt load, Whistler is profitable to the tune of $100 million a year, so it's clearly an attractive target. Beyond Vail Resorts, The Globe and Mail reports that Nippon Cable, a Japanese lift-maker, is interested in upping its 23 percent minority ownership of Whistler.

But the postponement of the auction clearly gives Intrawest an opening to figure out how to hang on to the standout property of its 10 resorts; Whistler clearly makes the entire company much more valuable at auction. Within the current flurry of stories, there are no news updates on the future of Steamboat and Winter Park, the two remaining Colorado resorts in the Intrawest portfolio.

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