Vail Resorts reaps record profits
BROOMFIELD – Good skier numbers helped push Vail Resorts to a record year for profits, chief executive Rob Katz said in his year-end report Thursday.”It was terrific year for the company,” Katz said. “The key is how we’re going to grow from here.”The company reported records for the fiscal year in several important categories, including net income, “resort EBITDA” and “resort revenue.” Its net income for the year, $45.8 million, almost doubled compared to last year.In reporting its earnings, the company relies heavily on EBITDA, which is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. The “resort” moniker combines results from the company’s mountain and hotel divisions. It does not include results from its real estate division.Katz said it also was the third-straight year of record cash flow for the company, citing several factors, primarily the record resort EBITDA.Lots of early season snow in Colorado was great advertising for the resorts last year. Both Vail and Beaver Creek had the most snow at the tops of the mountains in nine years. Vail skier visits were up 6.9 percent, and Beaver Creek visits were up 7.4 percent.Meanwhile, bad weather at Heavenly over the winter tempered the good skier numbers. Skier visits there were down 3.9 percent.Snow contributed to the good numbers, but it wasn’t the primary factor, Katz said. “The primary driver is all of the upgrades and infrastructure we’ve put into resorts and the terrific experience we provide to guests when they come out,” he said.Katz touted continued improvements, including the new gondola at Breckenridge, the construction of Arrabelle at Vail Square in Lionshead and the planned redevelopment of West Lionshead, which includes a new chairlift.For the fourth quarter, which is May, June and July, the company posted its customary loss. It reported a net loss of $31.3 million for the quarter, during which its ski resorts are closed.Vail Resorts owns Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado and Heavenly at Lake Tahoe. It also owns and runs hotels in resort areas across the West.Good season coming?Season pass sales for the upcoming season are up 22 percent compared to the same time last year and advance reservations for rooms booked through Vail Resorts are up 24 percent compared to last year, he said.Katz said he’s expecting those numbers to slow, and isn’t sure whether they reflect more people buying passes or renting rooms, or simply that people are doing it earlier than last year.On the local real estate front, 10 of the 13 Lodge at Vail Chalets, now under construction, are under contract at an average price of $2,400 per square foot, Katz said.He also told analysts that efforts are ramping up for West Lionshead, where the company plans a major redevelopment including a new chairlift – with a gondola the preferred choice. Also planned are condos, a parking garage, stores and offices for the area.Katz said Vail Resorts will work with the town to choose a new name for what is now known as West Lionshead.”I’m not sure ‘West Lionshead’ is the best marketing name for that area,” he said.The new name will probably have “Vail” in it – just as the company is using “Vail Square” to rebrand Lionshead.Katz declined to comment on whether Vail Resorts is looking to buy any particular resorts, such the Steamboat ski area. Steamboat is for sale, but antitrust laws could prevent Vail Resorts from buying it, even if the company was interested.”We look at consolidation as part of our strategic plan,” Katz said. “We’re certainly on the lookout for resorts we can buy.” It was Vail Resorts’ first quarterly report issued from its new Broomfield headquarters. The company moved from Avon over the summer, a move that Katz announced the day he took over as chief exec in February.
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