Whistler-Blackcomb leads the way for Intrawest By Paul Andrew Industry analysts and major shareholders of Intrawest stock say the surprising and staggering 53 per cent rise in fourth quarter earnings announced this week are unprecedented for the company. And the record 2.16 million skier visits to Whistler-Blackcomb during the 1998/99 ski season not only helped raise overall skier visits to Intrawest resorts by nine per cent, the people who came to ski spent 12 per cent more while they were vacationing at the resorts. David Perry said the last fact is a direct benefit to Whistler as a municipality. "The whole community of Whistler should be proud," Perry, vice-president of sales and marketing for Whistler-Blackcomb, said Wednesday. "It’s good news for the entire resort. That means that business in Whistler is thriving and it means we have momentum going into the new season." Toronto business analysts, who are keeping an enthusiastic eye on Intrawest stock market share prices which closed at $23.50 in Toronto Tuesday, said the only two other multiple resort corporations that come close to Intrawest, Vail Resorts Inc. and American Skiing Corp. are woefully behind in all or most aspects of the resort operation business. And that for the current price of Intrawest shares, $23.50 is a bargain. The fourth quarter ending on June 30, 1999, showed that Intrawest’s 10 ski resorts, one golf and beach resort, three resorts in development and its one time share business earned total revenue of $920.7 million for the year. That beat last year’s total of $601.7 million by 53 per cent. The fourth quarter itself, which Intrawest is most happy with because it’s usually a low revenue period, doubled in revenue for ski and resort operations from $47.4 million to an even $95 million. "We dramatically out performed the industry this year and it was no accident," said Dan Jarvis, Intrawest’s executive vice-president and chief financial officer. "We are offering a whole new experience which is receiving strong customer response from baby boomers, echo boomers and everyone in between." The company’s real estate revenue, which accounts for about a third of total revenue, increased to $326 million for the year — up 44 per cent. For the fourth quarter real estate sales jumped to $149 million from last year’s fourth quarter revenue of $61 million. It was the largest fourth quarter revenue results in the company’s history. Spokesmen from Intrawest’s largest shareholder, TAL Fund Management in Montreal, were quoted in the Vancouver Sun Tuesday saying Intrawest’s growth is unmatched and that stock markets will soon reflect the growth. New York, Toronto and Montreal stock exchanges all list Intrawest . The stock has gone as low as $17 and as high as $27.80 in the last year. Intrawest has its headquarters in Vancouver. Intrawest owns nine ski resorts across North America and holds a 59 per cent interest in a 10th. The company is building resort villages in three other ski areas and also owns a golf and beach resort in Florida. Intrawest also has significant interests in Campagnie des Alpes, the largest ski company in the world in terms of skier visits, and Alpine Helicopters Ltd., the largest heli-ski operator in the world. One of the most impressive statistics for Intrawest was the ski and resort revenue for the year, which had Whistler-Blackcomb leading the way as Intrawest’s "flagship" operation. Ski and resort revenue increased 57 per cent from $367.4 million to $577.7 million. "The strategy for the year has begun to pay off," Jarvis added. "All of our resorts are now very competitive in their markets as a result of our capital spending, improvements in service and the growth of our villages. The significant number of new beds coming on stream this year will further expand our villages which add both accommodation and vibrancy to our resorts."