VR execs optimistic about ski season | VailDaily.com

VR execs optimistic about ski season

NWS Beav Powder3 BH 11-22

AVON ” Vail Resorts reported a larger loss in its traditionally slow first quarter than it did last year. But signs point to a financially strong ski season, chief executive Adam Aron said.

“We’re a long way from knowing for sure the outcome of the 2005-06 ski season,” Aron said. “But what we do know today looks good.”

The resort company reported a loss of $34.3 million, or 93 cents per share, for the quarter, more than the loss of $31.5 million in last year’s first quarter. The fiscal first quarter runs from August until October ” the end of its summer resort season and before the lifts start running.

Slow real estate earnings contributed to the increase in net loss. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization ” or EBITDA ” for the company’s real estate division fell to a loss of $2.6 million from a gain of $7 million last year. Aron attributed the change to the timing of real estate projects.

Vail Resorts expects to reap the benefits of several ongoing projects in fiscal years 2007 and 2008, Aron said. Projects that are planned or under construction include the Arrabelle, Gore Creek Place and the Ritz-Carlton Residences along with major renovations in Lionshead and at the base of Vail Mountain.

“We are highly confident in the fundamental, inherent and underlying value of our real estate holdings,” Aron said.

The company reported that it holds $194 million in real estate for sale and investment. About $110 million of that amount is in Vail, Aron said.

Strong indicators

Aron touted Vail Mountain’s record snowfall so far this season ” more than 12 feet ” and noted that Vail Resorts took out a full-page ad about the snowfall in Wednesday’s national edition of the Wall Street Journal.

Pass sales are on track for an all-time record, Aron said.

And local ski shops are also saying that skiers are flocking to the slopes.

“Everybody hears about how much snow we’re getting, and they want to ski,” said Kevin Warnock, assistant manager of rentals at Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead. He said the shop is really busy from Thursday to Sunday ever since the snow started flying several weeks ago.

“Thanksgiving it was packed,” he said.

Warnock said business should stay good ” as long as the snow keeps flying.

Troy Goldberg, owner of Troy’s Ski Shop in Vail Village, said wider skis made for powder he has for rent have been flying off the shelves.

“A lot of Front Rangers know the snow’s good and they’re driving through Summit County to come here,” he said.

Vail Resorts said it is in serious discussions to enter into more hotel management contracts. It announced that the Lodge at Vail, which the company owns, will manage the Austria Haus in Vail Village.

Vail Resorts, trading as MTN on the New York Stock Exchange, closed at 37.47, up 21 cents.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or estoner@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado

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