Vail Resorts shows strong growth in season pass sales
BROOMFIELD — Pass sales for next season and resort visits in the closing weeks of the 2015-’16 ski season drove a productive third quarter for Vail Resorts. Company CEO Rob Katz on Thursday hosted a call to discuss those results, and the numbers are virtually all positive.
Perhaps the biggest news is in season pass sales. Katz reported that pass sales through May 31 ran 29 percent higher than the same period in 2015, with a 34 percent gain in revenue from those sales.
Pass sales were strong enough that Katz said sales so far are now equal to 50 percent of all passes sold for the 2015-’16 ski season.
Many of those pass sales came in Northern California, where the state last winter saw some snow relief from a years-long drought. Katz said pass sales have also accelerated in Chicago. That’s one of Vail Resorts’ strongest destination markets, but it’s also near Wilmont Mountain, an urban resort. The company now has small ski areas near Minneapolis, Detroit and Chicago, and skiers can use their Epic Passes to ski both close to home and at Vail Resorts’ properties in the western U.S.
Katz said pass sales in Australia have also been strong. Perisher, a company-owned resort there, opens next week for its winter season. Katz said Vail Resorts had a full offseason to sell its Epic Australia passes, which are also good for skiing at U.S. resorts.
Katz credited the success of that pass program with the strength of its visitor numbers from that continent.
Responding to a question from analyst Felicia Hendrix, Katz said Australia was the only international market to see gains, Katz said. The company saw a “small decline” in visits from Mexico, Katz said, adding that declines were greater from Brazil, Canada and Great Britain. International visits have been affected factors including the collapse of the price of oil, and by the strength of the U.S. dollar, which has made travel to this country more expensive.
“There were headwinds, but we outperformed, given what we faced,” Katz said.
Value to Visitors
On the subject of cost and value, Katz said the company is always looking for ways to bring value to visitors, and said the average price for a day of skiing at Vail is $86. That’s in contrast to Vail’s single day lift ticket price of $175 last season.
“People see that headline price,” Katz said. “We felt it was good to highlight (the average price).”
As the company continues its financial growth, the company is also putting money into its product. A new mountain restaurant at Breckenridge, replacing the SunUp lift at Vail with a high-speed quad lift and renovation of the Pines Lodge at Beaver Creek lead that list. The company has also began a two-year effort to update its current desktop and mobile websites into a single platform.
The company’s performance is also returning cash to stockholders. The company increased its per-share dividend by 30 percent in the quarter that ended March 31. The dividend for the quarter ending May 31 will be 81 cents per share.
Then there’s Park City, where company officials believe strong future growth will come from.
“That’s a resort that continues to drive above-average growth,” Katz said. “We’re just getting going about educating people about the Park City experience.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.
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