Vail Resorts officials say skier visits are up 2.8% with growth primarily on weekdays |

Vail Resorts officials say skier visits are up 2.8% with growth primarily on weekdays

Scott N. Miller
Vail Daily
Vail Mountain employees are pictured at the base of Gondola One on March 7. Vail Resorts on Monday announced employees will receive a minimum wage of $20 per hour beginning next season.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

Vail Resorts on Monday, March 14, announced the company will be increasing its minimum wage to $20 per hour for the 2022-23 North American ski season.

The company made the announcement in a news release in advance of its 2022 second quarter earnings call.

Responding to an analyst’s question, Vail Resorts CEO Kirsten Lynch said the wage increase is more about returning to normal staffing than adding new people.

Part of that return to normal operations — marked by the 2019-20 season before the company shut down its resorts in March 2020 — will be a return to normal levels of visitation. That’s particularly important at Whistler Blackcomb. That and other Canadian resorts were particularly hard hit by COVID-related travel restrictions.

Omicron and staffing

Vail Resorts’ staffing took a hit early this season, particularly around the Christmas holidays. Lynch said staffing was already short during that time and then was affected even more by a spike in cases of COVID-19 driven by the omicron variant. That spike put about 10% of the company’s staff on the sick list.

For the season to date through March 6, Vail Resorts is reporting a 2.8% increase in skier visits compared to the company’s 2020 fiscal year. Lift revenue increased more than 10%.

On the other hand, the company’s other lines of business — particularly in food and beverage, still lag behind the 2020 fiscal year numbers. Declines were also seen in ski school and rental revenue.

On the other hand, lodging occupancy has increased since the Christmas holidays, and the average daily rate has also increased.

Vail Resorts puts a lot of emphasis on pass sales, which provide revenue stability in a seasonal business. In March of 2021, the company announced a 20% price cut in Epic Pass prices, which took the cost back to 20215-16 levels.

Use of passes of all kinds this season is up to 69% of all visitors. But those discounted passes haven’t affected peak-period visitation, Lynch said.

It’s weekday growth

The growth — nearly 10% — has come on weekdays, with weekends and holiday visitation essentially flat. That’s “an outcome we’ve wanted to achieve,” Lynch said.

Vail Resorts Chief Financial Officer Michael Barkin said more weekday visits, from both day and destination skiers, is a “great utilization of capacity.”

To further boost capacity, the company is planning a capital improvement plan worth $327 million and $337 million. Those projects include 20 new or replacement lifts across 14 resorts, including lifts at Vail Mountain and Keystone Resort.

Given the popularity of the company’s winter resorts, Barkin said Vail Resorts is updating its guidance for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends July 31. That update includes the expectation that lodging will outperform previous guidance. The updated guidance assumes “normal conditions and operations,” with no associated COVID-19 restrictions, including at the company’s Australian resorts.

Lynch acknowledged that this season has been challenging, from early season conditions to negative media reports around the company. But, she added, the company is focused on “giving confidence to our customers. … We feel confident in our strategies.”

By the numbers

$175 million: Vail Resorts’ anticipated spending on wage increases and beefing up its human resources department

$223.4 million: Net income attributable to Vail Resorts for its second fiscal quarter of 2022.

2.8%: Increase in skier visits season to date compared to the 2020 fiscal year.

$1.91: Announced quarterly per-share dividend for shares held as of March 30.

Source: Vail Resorts

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