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Originally published January 20, 2010 at 8:55 PM | Page modified January 21, 2010 at 12:03 PM

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Lenders to auction Whistler during Olympics

Lenders have seized the assets of Intrawest ULC, including the Whistler ski resort that will be home to the Olympic downhill races next month.

The Denver Post

Intrawest resorts

MAJOR RESORTS of Intrawest:

Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia

Panorama Mountain Village, British Columbia

Steamboat Ski & Resort, Colorado

Winter Park Resort, Colorado

Mont Tremblant Ski Resort, Québec

Blue Mountain Ski Resort, Ontario

Stratton Mountain Ski Resort, Vermont

Mountain Creek, New Jersey

Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia

Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, Florida

Source: Intrawest

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DENVER — Canada's Whistler Blackcomb resort, site of several alpine-ski events during next month's Winter Olympics, will be on the auction block during the Games.

Lenders plan to auction their stake in British Columbia-based resort company Intrawest, Whistler Blackcomb's owner, during the Vancouver Games.

Whistler Blackcomb is Intrawest's flagship resort.

An ad in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal announced a public auction on Feb. 19 of Intrawest's debt, which covers the resort company's properties, including Colorado's Steamboat ski area and Mont Tremblant Ski Resort in Québec.

Intrawest's corporate owner, New York hedge fund Fortress Investment Group, last fall missed a $524 million payment on a $1.4 billion debt. Since then, the fund has been negotiating with its lenders — reportedly the defunct Lehman Bros. and hedge fund Davidson Kempner.

Fortress acquired Intrawest in 2006 in a leveraged buyout worth $2.8 billion. In early 2007, the company bought Steamboat ski area for $239 million. In December last year, Intrawest completed the sale of its Copper Mountain ski area in Colorado to Utah's Powdr Corp. for an undisclosed amount.

Tuesday's legal notice in The Wall Street Journal announced that Wilmington Trust FSB would auction "100 percent of the limited liability company membership interests in Intrawest Holdings."

"Purchase of the membership interests of Intrawest Holdings would result in the indirect ownership of certain real property and equity interests," read the notice.

The ad identified other Intrawest resort properties, including locations at Squaw Valley in California, Sandestin in Florida, Lake Las Vegas, Stratton in Vermont, Mont Tremblant in Quebec and "partnership interests" in Whistler Blackcomb.

Intrawest on Wednesday denied widespread reports that lenders had seized the company, saying it was "business as usual" at the resort's properties.

"There have been inaccurate and misleading media reports surrounding Intrawest today. Fortress Investment Group continues to own and control Intrawest and all of its properties. Serious discussions with Intrawest's lenders are ongoing regarding refinancing and the company continues to operate 'business as usual' at all of its resort properties," read the statement from Intrawest.

The committee organizing the Vancouver Winter Olympics declined to comment on Intrawest's financial situation.

"What we can confirm is that Whistler Blackcomb is an important partner in the staging of the 2010 Games and we continue working in very close partnership with them to finalize overall preparations and readiness for the skiing and sliding sport events," Dan Doyle, executive vice president of construction with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, said in a statement.

Olympics organizers said they are "comfortable" Intrawest's financial problems won't disrupt the Winter Games.

Lilly Donohue, a spokeswoman for New York-based Fortress, didn't return a telephone message seeking comment. William Benintende, a spokesman for Wilmington, Del.,-based Wilmington Trust, declined to comment.

In addition to alpine skiing, Whistler, 65 miles northwest of Vancouver, is hosting other competitions, including bobsled, luge, skeleton, biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Information from Bloomberg News is included in this report.

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