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Mountain News: Vail Resorts survives drought



BROOMFIELD, Colo. – Vail Resorts, operator of four ski areas in Colorado and now three in California, survived the early season drought reasonably well — at least for now.

Skier visits dropped about five per cent in Colorado, for the early portion of winter through February, but more than 30 per cent at its Tahoe Basin resorts.

And with the drought came increased expenses: snowmaking alone cost the company $2.2 million more this season than the same period of December-February of the previous winter, according to company officials who spoke at a quarterly earning call covered by the Vail Daily.

But season passes had sold briskly before the ski season began. And the average daily rate at lodges owned by Vail Resorts has increased nearly 14 per cent, according to Rob Katz, the chief executive. He said that revenue from food operations is up nearly 10 per cent. And he also said that the number of international visitors has increased.

Altogether, the glad tidings from corporate headquarters mean a dividend of 18.75 cents per share.The company recently added California's Kirkwood to its ski area holdings. Katz has been open — if not specific — about his interest in adding yet more resort properties to the corporate fold. While Vail Resort officials have visited China, industry insiders suspect the company's international move may be in the Alps, reports Mountain Town News.

Mammoth lays off 75

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – Some 75 people have been laid off and other employees at Mammoth Mountain ski area have had their pay cut as a result of this winter's subpar snow conditions.

Half of the ski company's $150 million in projected annual revenue is paid out in wages, reports The Sheet.

Rusty Gregory, the chief executive at Mammoth Mountain, told town officials that the ski company's revenues would be off 30 per cent. This is despite ramped-up efforts to make more snow. But the added water and electricity were costly, he said.

As always, the 6-foot-4 Gregory was good for a memorable quote. "We fared better than our peers," he said, speaking of snow conditions, "which makes me the tallest man at a midget contest."

High-end real estate recovers

CANMORE, Alberta – Real estate sales seem to be picking up in ski towns.

In Alberta, developers of the resort called Three Sisters Living report stronger buyer interest, according to the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

"We probably had more traffic than in the last three years. Things are picking up in the industry," said Mike Butt, general manager of the Swan Group, one of the four building groups helping build the 200 housing units now planned.

In Colorado, the Vail area had a very strong January — with the most sales since January 2008. As before, the high end is propping up the average sale price of $1.2 million. Trevor Theelke, of Land Title Guarantee, reported several top-of-shelf sales prices: one house in Vail that sold for $13 million, and another at Beaver Creek that sold for $11 million. But sales activity has also been vigorous in the down-valley communities, home of the carpenters and electricians that built the mansions.

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