Destinations Luxury Resorts

Last Resorts Standing: North America’s 10 Best Independent Mountains (Part I)

When Deer Valley sold to newly formed KSL Capital Partners last month, it felt like the impossible had happened. A resort that still punched zip-tie passes to provide a personal touch seemed an unlikely candidate for corporate ownership. Yet with new resorts becoming “Epic” every year (last year Whistler, this year Stowe), independent ownership of ski resorts feels passe.

To be fair, resort consolidation has great benefits, offering more value for each season pass while allowing for capital improvements at smaller resorts. Nonetheless, we feel compelled to celebrate the last-standing independent resorts.

Turns out, there are many! We’re featuring our top 10 independently run resorts in North America this week, including those like Sun Valley, which may also own a smaller resort like Snowbasin, but are not part of a larger conglomerate. Read on for our first five, with (our admittedly arbitrary) chances for selling. Check out our next five here.

Jackson Hole – Wyoming 
Chances of selling: 15%

Jackson Hole prides itself on independent ownership. If Deer Valley hadn’t just proven that any resort is fair game, we’d have put those chances at 0%.

Sun Valley – Idaho
Chances of selling: 25%

The playground of many generations of stars — from Clark Gable to Arnold Schwarzenegger — Sun Valley is an icon steeped in history. We see them more an acquisition target for a group like KSL than Vail, but our bets are on this one staying independent.

Telluride – Colorado
Chances of selling – 15%

It would seem impossible that Vail hadn’t snatched up this gem if it wasn’t proudly owned and operated by Telluride locals. Of course, a slightly hard-to-reach location in a state already largely owned by Vail may keep it off-target as well. Our bets are on more partnerships with local development companies, but a slim chance of selling.

Mount Hood – Oregon
Chances of selling: 75%

With a focus on sustainability that makes it appealing to Vail and a nearly nonexistent social media presence, we can easily see Mount Hood becoming Epic  in the next season or two.

Taos – New Mexico
Chances of selling: 50%

Taos is a bit of a toss-up. Owned by billionaire conservationist Louis Bacon,  the resort features terrain and amenities that makes it ripe for acquisition, but it could just as easily remain independent. The overall Taos culture is proudly local, with strong city partnerships and a push to employ workers full-time. If any acquisition took place, a commitment to local hiring and sustainability would certainly be factors.

Read the next five in our series tomorrow!

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