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January 10, 2011
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Vail Resorts reports positive signs

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - Vail Resorts Monday lent some hard numbers to the feeling that this ski season is better than last.

In a report couched in investment-world-friendly language - "certain ski season metrics for the comparative periods from the beginning of the ski season through January 6, 2011, and for the prior year period through January 7, 2010" - the company stated its ski season business so far is running ahead of last year's numbers.

According to the report, revenue at all resorts is up, from lift tickets to ski rentals and lodging. The company's numbers were adjusted as if Northstar-at-Tahoe (acquired in October 2010) was owned in both periods.

Including revenue, season-to-date total skier visits for the company's six mountain resort properties were up approximately 10.1 percent through Jan. 6, including higher use by season pass holders.

"Our early season visitation was strong, especially as our growing season pass holder base enjoyed the outstanding snow conditions across all of our mountain resorts," Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz wrote in a statement. "While the Christmas to New Year's week was negatively impacted by storm-related challenges in the Northeast that kept some of our guests at home, as well as two days of unusually cold temperatures in Colorado, we feel great about results to date and the momentum we have going into the remainder of the season."

Katz's optimism is being echoed elsewhere in the industry.

"Things are looking better," longtime industry expert Jerry Jones said. "I just read that Aspen was up in bookings and revenue so far, too."

On a personal note, Jones said his daughter is a ski instructor at Beaver Creek, and she told her father the mountain was "packed" over the last weekend.

Besides regional resorts, Jones said other ski areas are also doing well this winter, helped by good snow nearly everywhere people play on the stuff.

"I don't think anyplace is being skunked right now," he said.

Dan Sherman, the director of marketing communications at Ski.Com, said his company is aimed primarily at destination skiers, but is also seeing gains from last year.

"Our business isn't as reliant on snow as (Vail Resorts) - it's based more on people making reservations well in advance," Sherman said. "But we're looking pretty good this season, too."

Sherman said his company - like just about everyone else in the vacation business - is dealing with people booking closer to their travel dates than in the past. That makes the company's bookings for February and March look even better.

And, like most vacation businesses, ski resorts are also selling "value" these days.

"It used to be that a good deal was stay four nights and get the fifth free, and a great deal was stay three nights and get the fourth free," Sherman said. "Now a good deal is the fourth night free and a great deal is the third night free."

But, while everyone's looking for a deal these days, "Skiers are a different kind of vacationer," Sherman added. "If they've taken a couple of years off because of the economy, they're ready to get back out there."

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Jan 12, 2011 05:22PM Published Jan 10, 2011 08:24PM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.