Vail Resorts: Signs point to strong ski season |

Vail Resorts: Signs point to strong ski season

Sarah Mausolf
vail daily
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyEdwards resident Brad Magosky skis his first run of the season Tuesday at Beaver Creek. Beaver Creek reported two inches of new snow as of Tuesday morning. More snow is in the forecast for Wednesday.

BROOMFIELD – The economic crisis is over. At least, that’s what some experts say.

But are recession-weary Americans ready to shell out for ski vacations and lift tickets?

Vail Resorts on Tuesday painted a cautiously optimistic picture of the 2009-10 ski season, noting that, while hotel bookings are down compared with last year, airline reservations are up and season pass sales are brisk.

Broomfield-based Vail Resorts owns Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, Beaver Creek, and Heavenly.

The company reported:

• For this ski season, advanced bookings for lodging are down 13 percent. That figure compares the number of room nights booked by Nov. 30 of this year with the same figure from that time last year. But that might not portend an overall drop in bookings for the season – Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz predicts that guests are waiting until closer to their trips to book their vacations. There are also bright spots: Bookings are up for some resorts during some stretches throughout the ski season.

• Advanced flight bookings for the winter at the Eagle County Airport are up about 4 percent compared with last year.

• Vail Resorts had sold 11 percent more season passes as of Dec. 6, compared with the same time period last year. That amounts to a 9 percent increase in sales dollars.

Along with looking ahead to the ski season, Vail Resorts on Tuesday released its earnings for August, September and October.

Overall revenue for the quarter slipped to about $80 million, down 47 percent compared with the same time period last year. Real estate sales account for much of the discrepancy – last year’s figures had received a boost from closings on 39 Crystal Peak Lodge homes and one Lodge at Vail Chalet unit.

Vail Resorts typically reports a loss in earnings for August, September and October because the ski mountains are closed during those months, Katz said. This year was no exception, with the company reporting a total loss of $38.3 million in earnings for the quarter. That figure refers to earnings before taxes, interest, depreciation and debt (called EBITDA). Although total earnings were a loss, the company earned $800,000 or 2 percent more than the same quarter last year.

More specifically, lodging EBITDA trailed by about $1 million compared with last year as the recession drove down group business and transient guest bookings. Mountain EBITDA – which includes things like lift tickets, food and retail – improved by 6.1 percent or $2.4 million compared with last year, partly due to cost-cutting measures such as employee wage reductions.

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