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Intrawest heads in new direction

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Revenue per skier visit down for first time in six years

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are being blamed for the first decline in revenue per skier visit Intrawest has seen in six years.

For Intrawest’s nine North American mountain resorts, including Whistler-Blackcomb, revenue per skier visit rose an average of 10.2 per cent each year between 1996 and 2001. But last season, spending per skier visit was down.

Revenue per skier visit for Intrawest resorts was $54.32 US in 2001. It fell to $53.66 US in 2002.

Whistler-Blackcomb, the premier destination resort in Intrawest’s stable, was the major contributor to the downward slide.

President Joe Houssian told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting in Vancouver this week that Intrawest is moving away from being "just a ski and real estate company to being a marketing company."

Houssian said the company wants to develop a profile that’s built more on investing in people and systems and less reliant on having to build base villages or ski areas.

He said the company wants to become an integrated leisure company and that’s why it is placing emphasis on its resort club operations, its golf operations and its central reservations network.

Houssian also told shareholder Intrawest should perform well this year, despite economic and political uncertainty.

The statements came as Intrawest announced a first quarter loss of $11.1 million US for the period ending Sept. 30. That compares with a loss of $9.8 million US during the same quarter of 2001.

However, the first quarter is traditionally a slow period for Intrawest.

Total revenue for the quarter rose to $112.7 million US, from $93.7 million US a year earlier.

Intrawest plans to cut about $100 million US from its $1 billion US debt this year and plans to sell about $50 million US in non-core assets. Those moves started recently with the sale of employee housing buildings in Whistler for about $20 million. Whistler-Blackcomb continues to lease the buildings.

Houssian was also challenged over his salary and compensation by a shareholder at the meeting.

Houssian received about $1.5 million in salary and compensation for the year ended June 30, 2002, compared with $1.3 million the previous year. But under a new incentive plan he could receive another $5.1 million in 2004 if the company achieves certain financial targets.

Under the same plan executive vice president Dan Jarvis could receive $1 million and Gary Raymond could receive $1.25 million by 2005, if targets are met.

Shareholders were told the company had to increase its performance-based incentives to retain senior executives. A consultant’s report showed a substantial gap had developed between the compensation paid to Intrawest executives and similar employees in the U.S.

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