Growing number of skiers benefits Vail Resorts’ winter performance

Vail Resorts operates nine mountain resorts and three urban ski areas. (Barney Moss/Flickr)
Vail Resorts operates nine mountain resorts and three urban ski areas. (Barney Moss/Flickr)

By Lucia Maffei

Luckily for Vail Resorts Inc., the weather phenomenon known as El Niño brought deep snows, and many more skiers, to the company’s facilities in the western U.S.

For the second quarter ended Jan. 31, the Colorado-based resort operator posted net income attributable to Vail Resorts of $117 million, or $3.14 per diluted share, up one percent compared to $115.8 million, or $3.10 per share in the year ago quarter. The latest quarter’s results beat by 14 cents analysts’ estimate of $3 per share.

The company pointed out that excluding a tax benefit that helped last year’s profits, net income increased by a much bigger 27.2 percent. Revenue also surged 13 percent to $599.4 million from $530.2 in the year-ago quarter.

Despite above average temperature in northern and central states, the company reported a growth in visitation in its resorts in Colorado and in Utah. In the Lake Tahoe area in California and Nevada, the three company’s resorts have also seen “a significant rebound in visitation,” said CEO Rob Katz in a statement.

In 2016, Sierra Nevada has experienced almost 20 inches of snow more than in the last year, according to the California Data Exchange Center.

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Corporate headquarters are in Broomfield, Colorado. (Lucia Maffei/MEDILL)

However, international visitation did not perform as well as domestic market. A strong U.S. dollar has made visiting America much more costly for foreign visitors.

“Visits from Mexico have been largely flat from last year though we are seeing declines from our UK, Canadian and Brazilian markets,” said Katz.

The company announced plans for a $100 million total investment for 2016, $60 million of it allocated in maintenance expenditure. The other discretionary investments include the building of a new 500-seat restaurant at the company’s resort in Breckenridge, Colo., the chairlift’s upgrade at Vail Mountain, Colo., and a revamp of the company’s websites.

A $13 million investment will be allocated to enhance the guest experience at Wilmot, Wis., the facility serving approximately 800,000 skiers and riders – mostly from the Chicago area – that the company acquired in January for $20 million.

“We think our guests from Chicago and Milwaukee will be thrilled with investments we are making at Wilmot for the 2016-2017 ski season,” said Katz.

The addition of 400 seats in the base lodge and the creation of a kids’ ski and snowboard school are part of Vail Resorts’ plan for Wilmot.

Vail Resorts Stock Performance (in Dollars)

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Over the last six months, the company’s stock has climbed. (Lucia Maffei/MEDILL)

Vail also said directors approved a 30 percent increase to the company’s dividend, raising the quarterly payout to 81 cents.

For the six months ended Jan. 31, 2016 net income was $57.4 million or $1.54 per diluted share, up 11.5 percent from $51.5 million or $1.38 per share in the last year comparable period. Revenue increased 17.5 percent, from $658.5 million in the six months ended in January 2015 to $773.9 million, the previous year.

Apparently, investors are still concerned with Vail’s near-term forecast. In New York Stock Exchange trading Thursday, the company’s shares closed down $5.31, or 4.0 percent, at $127.60.

Photo at top: Vail Resorts operates nine mountain resorts and three urban ski areas in Colorado, Utah, Australia, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada. (Barney Moss/FLICKR)