International: The French Connection

Fall Line
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Fall Line

One of the 800-pound gorillas in North American skiing just gained a whole lot of weight. Intrawest Corp., owner of resorts such as Whistler/ Blackcomb, B.C., Copper Mountain, Colo., and Stratton, Vt., has teamed up with Compagnie des Alpes, the world's largest ski company in terms of skier visits. The two outfits tallied more than 15 million skier days last season. With the U.S. skier count flat as a bunny hill for the past decade, Intrawest is targeting growth across the Atlantic. "The North American market is stable at about 50 million annual skier visits. Europe, on the other hand, has nearly 250 million skier visits-the largest ski market in the world," says Gary Raymond, president of Intrawest's Resort Development Group. With package deals and incentives, the "marketing and operating alliance" hopes to groom the way for European skiers to visit here and domestic skiers to venture overseas more often. Programs won't start until the 1999-2000 season. Based in Paris, France, CDA operates 11 resorts in France and one in Italy. Intrawest, headquartered in Vancouver, B.C., owns nine resorts in North America. Now that Intrawest is bigger than ever, are customers troubled about the few controlling the many? "I don't have any indication skiers are worried about our size," Raymond says. "We aren't the Bill Gates of skiing."