Early ski season sales and bookings up at VR | SummitDaily.com

Early ski season sales and bookings up at VR


SUMMIT COUNTY ” Vail Resorts chairman and chief executive officer Adam Aron said the company is “thrilled” with momentum generated only one month into the 2004-2005 ski season.

Aron made the comment during the company’s first-quarter earnings call Friday.

Vail Resorts owns Keystone Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort in Summit County, as well as Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek in Eagle County and Heavenly in California.

The company is on pace to generate a record season pass sales mark, Aron said, having sold $50 million in lift tickets and passes so far ” up 1 percent over last year.

Bookings from the lucrative destination travelers are coming in at “considerable quantities,” Aron said, with airline reservations at Eagle County Regional Airport up 6 percent over last year and hotel bookings through the company’s central reservations system up 7 percent.

The company’s owned and managed properties are doing even better, up 10 percent compared to last year.

Aron did not offer specifics for visitation numbers or ski school bookings, but said the season so far is “off to a very good start” in those areas.

That said, Vail Resorts did lose money in the first quarter of 2005. But, Aron said, that was expected.

“There’s not a lot of skiing going on in August and September,” he said. “We exceeded our internal expectations.”

But the company did take a hit, especially as it took a loss of $800,000 on financing the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch.

That loss alone had about a penny-per-share impact on the company’s stock. Overall, the company’s stock lost about 89 cents per share of value on the company’s $31.5 million quarterly loss.

But a big part of that loss was recouped when Vail Resorts sold its 49 percent interest in the Ritz-Carlton earlier this week. The $13 million sale price will put about $9 million on the plus column of the company’s second quarter ledger.

The weak dollar should also impact the season two-fold: International visitation from Europe and South America is expected to climb in double-digit percentages and U.S. tourists who used to go to Canada to ski will stay in the states.

With only 6 percent of the season under its belt, Aron said it’s difficult to predict how it will financially play out.

“But what we do know today looks quite good,” he said.

During the call, Aron also said he will essentially be first in line to buy a new, multi-million dollar condominium at the new Arrabelle at Vail Square complex in Lionshead.

“I’m buying this at full price, with no discount,” Aron said. When the condos are ready for occupancy, probably in mid-2007, Aron will sell his home in Beaver Creek and move to Vail.

Aron’s new place will be one of 70 luxury condominiums built at a new Rock Resorts hotel and condo complex at Lionshead, now called “Arrabelle at Vail Square.”

Eagle County correspondent Scott Miller contributed to this story. Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at kmarquis@summitdaily.com.

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