BROOMFIELD - After making its name developing some of North America's premier mountain ski resorts, Vail Resorts Inc. is going down a new trail, one that's leading it to the suburban Midwest.

Broomfield-based Vail Resorts on Thursday announced it has entered into agreements to purchase the Afton Alps and Mount Brighton ski areas. The total acquisition price for Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN) will be $20 million in cash, according to a release from the company.

Afton Alps is in Hastings, Minnesota, which is 33 miles from the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Mount Brighton is in Brighton, Michigan, is 43 miles from Detroit.
 
The deals are expected to close next month and are subject to certain conditions, Vail Resorts said.

When the deal is closed, the slopes will join a roster that includes names like Vail, Beaver Creek and the company's three resorts around Lake Tahoe.

Vail Resorts acknowledges it is taking a new direction and is making the investment to broaden its reach. According to the press release from Vail Resorts, the ski areas serve major snow sports markets in the Midwest, and there are more than 468,000 active skiers and snowboarders in the nearby Minneapolis-St. Paul and Detroit metropolitan areas.

"These acquisitions are part of a new strategy for Vail Resorts to drive season pass sales and build broader guest loyalty by looking at premier smaller ski areas located near major urban markets," Vail Resorts chairman and chief executive Rob Katz said in the statement.

Vail Resorts is planning to upgrade the family owned ski hills, improving the runs and introducing EpicMix family of social media programs.

"We plan to bring state-of-the-art racing, terrain parks, coaching and technology to the guest experience. We also will connect these urban ski areas to our world-class resorts in Colorado, California and Nevada with new season pass offerings, providing the chance to experience the best skiing and riding locally and in the West," Katz said.

Vail Resorts plans to create season pass products for both Afton Alps and Mount Brighton for the 2013-2014 season pass sales period, beginning in March 2013. It also is offering Afton Alps and Mount Brighton season pass holders a 25-percent discount off of the window rate on lift tickets at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood this season.