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Vail Resorts posts 26% visitation bump, thanks in large part to WB’s ‘exceptionally strong’ performance

Colorado resort operator sees record pass sales, but still falls short of Wall Street’s predictions

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Vail Resorts’s third quarter was another positive period for the Colorado resort operator, bolstered in no small part by a busy ski season at Whistler Blackcomb (WB).

Detailing the company’s performance through April 30, an earnings report this week showed a 26-per-cent increase in visitation across its slate of resorts, and a 25.3-per-cent jump in total lift revenue, to $419.6 million, compared to the same period last year. Without WB factored in, Vail’s total lift revenue rose 5.6 per cent.

On a conference call Thursday morning, June 8, Vail Resorts’ CEO Rob Katz spoke about WB’s third-quarter growth.

"Results from Whistler Blackcomb in the third quarter of fiscal 2017 continued to be exceptionally strong with the resort completing the season with significant growth above its record prior year,” he said. “The resort benefited from excellent conditions throughout the season, a low Canadian dollar versus U.S. dollar exchange rate driving significant destination growth from U.S. and other international guests and the outstanding experience the resort provides.”

Vail’s pass offerings also showed promising signs of growth, with overall pass sales on pace to set another record. Through May 30, sales of the various iterations of its popular multi-resort Epic Pass have increased by roughly 10 per cent in unit sales and 16 per cent in revenue over 2016. Pass sales account for nearly half — 44 per cent — of the company’s North American lift revenue.

“Our growth in season pass sales continues to be driven by sales to both local and destination guests who increasingly appreciate our network of resorts and the compelling value proposition our season pass products offer for their ski vacations,” Katz added. “We also continue to benefit from our improved ability to segment and personalize our marketing messages to guests resulting from the significant investments we have made in data capture and analytics over the past several years.”

Overall, Vail Resorts’ net income was $181.1 for the quarter, an increase of 14.9 per cent. And while Vail’s stock has gained 33 per cent since Jan. 1, it closed on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday at $210.85 per share, down almost two per cent.

According to the Associated Press, Vail's third quarter didn't meet Wall Street's expectations. On a per-share basis, the company posted a profit of $4.40. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, were $4.84 per share. The average estimate of five analysts surveyed was for earnings of $4.86 per share.

The resort operator's posted net revenue of $794.6 million for the period also fell short of Wall Street's forecasts, with analysts predicting $808.3 million for the quarter.

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