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The California ski industry just changed overnight

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The owners of Squaw Valley bought Mammoth Resorts

Mammoth Mountain after new snow in February 2017.

Mammoth Resorts—the owner of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Snow Summit, Bear Mountain, and June Mountain—just announced it has been acquired by a new ski company for an undisclosed amount. The joint alliance of Aspen Skiing Co. and KSL Capital Partners now control more than 6,000 acres of Southern California ski terrain that hosts more than 2 million skiers each year.

The move comes just two days after the same nascent partnership announced it had acquired Intrawest Resort Holdings’ ski areas, including top-tier resorts such Winter Park and Steamboat, for $1.5 billion. Before the big announcements this week, Aspen Skiing Co. operated four ski areas (and a handful of hotels) in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, while KSL Capital Partners owns Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows ski area.

For Northern Californians interested in skiing or snowboarding, it’s hard to overstate the importance of the Aspen-KSL purchase. While people in San Francisco most often go to Lake Tahoe to ski, a partnership between the KSL-owned Squaw Valley and Mammoth Mountain could make Mammoth a more appealing option.

With Mammoth as one of the most important ski areas in Aspen-KSL’s arsenal, it’s likely that by the 2018-2019 winter, Northern Californians will have access to skiing on season passes that finally rival those offered by the ski industry’s biggest player, Vail Resorts. While Vail Resorts owns or operates three ski areas in Lake Tahoe (Heavenly Mountain Resort, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, and Northstar California), this week’s Aspen-KSL acquisitions offers serious competition.

An Aspen-KSL season pass could conceivably offer skiing at 15 resorts in the U.S. and Canada: Squaw Valley, Aspen Mountain, Highland, Buttermilk, Snowmass, Steamboat, Winter Park, Quebec’s Mont Tremblant, Vermont’s Stratton, Ontario’s Blue Mountain, West Virginia’s Snowshoe—and of course Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Snow Summit, Bear Mountain, and June Mountain.

Aspen-KSL’s acquisition was “the next logical chapter in the story of Mammoth Resorts,” Rusty Gregory, Chairman and CEO of Mammoth Resorts, said in a statements to the press. He went on, “This new platform, built around a collective passion for the mountains and our commitment to the people who visit, work and live there, is exactly what the ski resort business needs.”

Today’s announcement is the latest in a busy few years of ski industry consolidation.

Mammoth Mountain bought Snow Summit and Bear Mountain for $38 million in 2014. And the new Aspen Skiing-KSL Capital team is a direct challenge to Vail Resorts.

Vail Resorts recently bought Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb for $1.05 billion and Vermont’s Stowe Mountain, all in an effort to expand their wildly popular season pass known as the Epic Pass—which offers unlimited skiing at 11 major resorts and three urban resorts in the Midwest.

For now, a rival season pass will have to wait. All of the Aspen-KSL resorts will honor existing pass products currently on sale for the 2017-2018 winter.