Ski Canada @ 50 – Rise of the Four-Season Destination Ski Resort

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The age of Intrawest

Mont Tremblant
For better or worse, Intrawest’s billion-dollar developments (like Mont Tremblant) were at first compared with Disney theme parks.

  Vancouver real estate developer Joe Houssian had a vision: to save ski hills, which by the early ’80s were already starting to falter. Resorts would develop an identity, a distinct sense of place. His new company, Intrawest, began by purchasing the vastly underutilized Blackcomb Mountain in 1983. Over the next two decades, the Vancouver-based real estate company Intrawest would come to define the “four-season destination resort experience.” Purpose-built, pedestrian-only, familiar-looking villages (in part, financed by condo sales, time-shares and “partial ownership” of hotel rooms) opened up mountain views while retaining a sense of intimacy. High-speed lifts, manmade snow, groomed slopes and slopeside accommodation would make skiing easier for the casual visitor. Along with dining, shopping and nightly entertainment, golf, mountain biking, hiking and water sports would beckon during the off-season.

Intrawest was an international resort giant based right here in Canada, and had a portfolio of our top resorts: Whistler Blackcomb, Mont Tremblant and Blue Mountain, as well as Copper Mountain, Winter Park, Stratton Resort and Mammoth Mountain south of the border. And just as the North American resort bubble peaked, Houssian sold the entire suite to Fortress Capital in 2008 for a cool $2.8 billion.

from Dec/Jan 2022 issue

Steven Threndyle
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