In early April, Vail Resorts Inc., an American ski resort conglomerate based in Colorado, bought Perisher Ski Resort in Australia for $136 million. As part of the deal, Australians who buy a pass to ski at Perisher will also receive a free pass to ski in nine of Vail’s resorts in Colorado, Utah, California, and Nevada.
Perisher Ski Resort is the largest ski resort in Australia and located five hours south of Sydney. However, Australia’s climate has become hotter since the 1950s, which has hurt the domestic skiing industry. Snowfall in Australia is only projected to further decrease. In addition, mountains in the Southern hemisphere are generally smaller than their Northern hemisphere counterparts. Perisher’s highest summit is still lower than the base of Vail’s Breckenridge resort in Colorado.
Despite the relative lack of local options for skiing, Australians enjoy winter sports and therefore travel abroad to pursue their passion for the slopes. Popular destinations include Japan and New Zealand, but Vail Resorts hopes to draw more Australians to the US through the “Freedom Pass.” Likewise, customers who purchase Vail Resorts’ “Epic Pass” will also receive a pass to ski in Australia. It is not Vail’s first effort at trans-Pacific ski partnership, as they rolled out a similar pass program with a Japanese ski resort in 2014.
Australia and Colorado already share economic ties, through trade, investment, and tourism. There are 44 majority-owned Australian businesses in Colorado and exports from Colorado to Australia support about 2,451 jobs in the state. Visitor spending by Australian tourists in Colorado earned the state about $158 million in 2013.
Melissa Newcomb is a Project Assistant at the East-West Center in Washington, D.C.