Sales of Epic Passes have reached record levels for Vail Resorts, enabling the Colorado-based resort company to withstand a decline in visitation and dry winter conditions at its ski resorts in California and Utah.
Despite poor winter conditions in Utah and California, lift revenue at Vail’s nine U.S. mountain resorts climbed 13.2 percent to $285.2 million for the three months through April, driven largely by a 21 percent increase in season pass sales for the company’s third quarter. Pass sales through May 26 for the 2015-16 ski season were up 12 percent in units and 20 percent in dollars when compared with the same period in 2014.
Vail said 43 percent of its total pass sales came from destination markets outside Colorado, compared with 30 percent four years ago. Pass sales growth indicates a changed marketing strategy for the company, which used to focus its pass sales on Colorado residents but now peddles the $769 Epic Pass in cities across the globe. Still, season-pass sales in Colorado are crucial to Vail Resorts.
Once again Vail Resorts reported guests spending more, with ski school revenue climbing 5.9 percent and dining revenue up 4 percent for the quarter while retail spending declined to 3.7 percent, dragged down by its retail shops in California’s drought-ravaged Lake Tahoe region.
Rob Katz, Vail Resorts CEO, said his company’s Colorado resorts — Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone — saw a slight decline in visitation. Overall, the company saw a 1.4 percent dip in visits.
However, the company reported mountain and lodging revenue climbed to $566.9 million for the three months through April, a span that represents the busiest three months for the ski resort operator. The company’s EBITDA off that revenue was $267.3 million for the quarter, up 10.9 percent when compared with the same period last year.
Combined with its increasingly smaller real estate division, Vail Resorts reported net income of $133.4 million for the quarter, compared with $117.9 million for the same period in 2014.