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Intrawest to Spin Off Real Estate

DENVER, Colo. (AP)--Intrawest Corp., North America's biggest ski operator, is spinning off some undeveloped land to raise money for new real estate development projects.

"We were getting to the point where we either had to slow down our business or find a new way to finance it,'' Intrawest CEO Joe Houssian said Thursday in a telephone interview.

Intrawest, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, will sell 15 undeveloped parcels valued at $380 million and use the proceeds to pay down its $1.1 billion debt. That will reduce debt service obligations and free up capital for new projects, Houssian said.

Intrawest will sell the 15 parcels at nine resorts to two new companies, Leisura Developments US and Leisura Developments Canada. Intrawest will hold a 35 percent share in the new companies and will be paid to develop the sites.

Two large investors in the United States and Canada, which Houssian declined to identify, will own the developments.

"I think everyone wants them to get to a point where they have a more manageable debt level,'' said analyst Stacy Forbes of Janco Partners.

She said Intrawest competitor American Skiing Co. grew so fast it amassed too much debt and had to sell its Heavenly resort on the California-Nevada border.

Houssian said the company's 10 resorts are doing well and are likely to break their season record of 7.1 million skier days this year. A skier day is one lift ticket bought and used by one skier or snowboarder.

He said that record would likely fall even without 1 million skier days expected at Winter Park, a resort owned by the city of Denver and now managed by Intrawest.

He said Intrawest could sell more land to the partnerships.

Intrawest operates Mammoth in California, Copper Mountain and Winter Park in Colorado, Whistler-Blackcomb and Panorama in British Columbia, Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Blue Mountain in Ontario, Snowshoe in West Virginia, Stratton in Vermont and Mountain Creek in New Jersey. It also operates 18 golf courses.

Intrawest is developing base villages at Snowmass and Winter Park in Colorado and Squaw Valley in California, among other projects.

"We've got more than a decade of condos to build,'' Houssian said.

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Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press

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