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North America's largest and most visited ski resort to join Colorado based Vail Resorts portfolio in $1.1 billion merger deal

With the US's biggest resort operator to buy up Canada's and indeed North America's biggest resort Whistler Blackcomb, this is quite simply the biggest deal of 2016.

Vail has been earning itself a reputation as something of a ski resort big game hunter. Two years ago, Vail Resorts hit the headlines when it made another bold expansionist move in the US, by merging Canyons and Park City Mountain Resorts to form Utah's Park City. Vail then spent $50 million on a new gondola to join the two resorts physically creating the US's biggest ski resort. Last year Vail added Australia's biggest resort Perisher to their already impressive list of ski areas.

The now publically listed company started out with its namesake, Colorado's Vail - which is incidentally the US's most visited ski resort - some 50 years ago and now boasts a portfolio which includes the second most visited US ski resort Breckenridge, as well as two other resorts in Colorado, Beaver Creek and Keystone; California's Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, as well as a handful of smaller resorts in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

But British Columbia's Whistler Blackcomb is perhaps the most impressive trophy yet. With more than 200 trails, over 8,000 acres of skiable terrain, three glaciers with summer skiing and an average snowfall of over 1,181cm a year - all under two hours drive of the west coast metropolis of Vancouver.

The prestige of this take over is huge too. Famed for its back country skiing and snowboarding, Whistler Blackcomb is regularly voted the best resort in North America and has a rich heritage and reputation which goes back to when the mountain was first 'squatted' by ski bums in the late 60s, through to the 2010 winter Olympics and its 50th anniversary celebrations in 2015.

Vail has committed itself to adding the resort to its multi-resort season ticket, the Epic Pass and continuing the expansion and the resort's year-round activities, such as its world class mountain biking. The deal, which involves Vail paying cash and shares to Whistler shareholders, has been approved by the boards of both companies and is expected to be completed by December 2016.

whistlerblackcomb.com