I do not think Vail is going to be concerned about electric costs here in NE. The resorts with healthy skier visits make ends meet, and Vail will likely increase visits at whatever location it might purchase.
I do think Vail faces two problems moving into the NE:
1) Vail's strategy has been to promote season pass sales within an ecosystem, and capitalize on consistent loyal repeat visits. That model functions excellently out west where a huge portion of skier days come from season passes. That is almost the inverse of NE. The majority of skier visits in NE come from ticket sales, not passes. Now perhaps Vail's target audience is already demographically a season pass holder in the NE, but it is a big difference in skier habits from East to West.
2) I am sure Wilmot and Alfton Alps are great places in their respective markets, but that kind of resort purchase in the NE would not work. Let's says Vail purchased Crotched or Waterville as examples. How many area skiers would tie themselves with a pass to a single resort in NH with only 1000 ft vert in HSQ terrain? Vail has been buying the bigger fish in a very small pond in the midwest. NJ might allow a replication of that model, but in VT/NH they will have to go big if they want to drive extra sales.
In Utah Vail purchased two biggest players in the most lucrative and profitable Park City, UT market. When they moved to PNW they nabbed the biggest single fish in North America. The skier market in New England is bigger than UT with VT alone frequently getting more visits. Vail moving into NE will mean purchasing a major resort, not a feeder hill.
What could a splashy Vail move look like?
-Stowe has the iconic name, terrain, and only a single owner, and the well traveled clientele.
-Killington is the biggest fish in the pond. Buy the Beast, upgrade the infrastructure and build the connection to Pico.
-Okemo and Mt Sunapee, you get two states, local multi-resort bonus, and total visits close to Killington.
-Buy out Boyne in NE and PNW
-Buy the best assists of Peak Resorts (Hunter, Mt Snow, maybe Crotched) when they go bankrupt
-Best option: Jay Peak and Burke--multi resort, much more reliable snow, discounted price at auction, the evil Vail Empire becomes the hero rescuing two rural economies, and they are 2 hours from the 4.5 million people in the Montreal and Burlington metro areas
I think your point two is spot on. They want to own feeder hills that are dominant in their local markets preferably with minimal local alternatives.
As I believe Tony said earlier, the socal area mountains could have been attractive for the same reason as the midwest feeders. I'd go so far as to propose that AZ snowbowl would have made a great Western feeder hill. Minimal competition. Population that expects to travel...