The largest resort owner in North America is testing the market by listing seven of its resort villages — including Copper Mountain's base village — for $142.5 million.
"We are exploring what pricing the market might deliver for that portfolio," said Steve Rice, managing director of Florida real-estate investment trust CNL Lifestyle Co.
CNL's portfolio includes eight Eastern ski resorts and nine Western ski areas, including Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
The seven villages — which include 426,000 square feet of commercial space in CNL's resort sites at Copper, California's Mammoth, Canada's Whistler, Ontario's Blue Mountain, West Virginia's Snowshoe, Vermont's Stratton and Florida beach destination Sandestin — are all fully rented and have "improved strongly and steadily" since the 2009 downturn.
Rice said his company "is not committed to selling" but that if the portfolio sells, "we will be recycling that capital back into our lifestyle asset group and investing in both expansion projects at our existing resorts ... as well as investing in potential new acquisitions."
"We are not stepping away from the ski industry," said Rice, a former ski patroller who now heads one of the heaviest hitters in the ski-resort industry. "We are as committed as ever. We just think it's a good time to put these assets on the market."
With buyer's debt affordable and plentiful and a lot of equity money looking for an investment home, it's a good time to look for a buyer, said Mike Cahill, CEO of Denver's Hospitality Real Estate Counselors, which handles large property sales involving resorts, hotels and casinos.
"You've got cheap debt and equitable money, and that's a great recipe to both buy and sell," Cahill said.
CNL's lifestyle properties include marinas, country clubs, senior housing communities and gated attractions such as Denver's Elitch Gardens.
But the ski resorts are the strongest contributors to the stable.
The last ski season saw the REIT's mountain-resort-property revenues climb 16 percent, with visits increasing 10.5 percent.
"As a class, the ski sector has held up very, very well right through the recession," Rice said.
CNL has continued to invest in its ski properties through the recession and the painfully dry 2011-12 ski season — with new lifts, lodging and base-area projects — and the operators who lease the properties, such as Crested Butte's Mueller family, pay additional rent on those capital improvements.
"Those investments have been absorbed by our tenants not only successfully, but they have made our tenants more successful themselves," Rice said.
At Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Rice said, CNL is "steady as she goes" with the Muellers, who are revamping expansion plans for neighboring Snodgrass with a more modest proposal that could include Nordic and human-powered guided adventure.
"The industry is very much broadening out that way," Rice said, noting skiing's backcountry boom.
Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, email@example.com or twitter.com/jasontblevins
What's for sale
Resort owner CNL is listing for sale the villages at seven of its properties, totaling 426,000 square feet of commercial space: