Vail Resorts combats weak first half of winter with acquisitions, higher lift ticket prices

It took a while for the snow to fall, but when the flakes finally returned this holiday season, Vail Resorts was able to profit in its fiscal second quarter 2013 with increased visitation, higher lift ticket prices and new acquisitions, despite lower lodging revenues.

It took a while for the snow to fall, but when the flakes finally returned this holiday season, Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN) was able to profit in its fiscal second quarter 2013 (ended Jan. 31) with increased visitation, higher lift ticket prices and new acquisitions, despite lower lodging revenues.

The Colorado-based ski resort company (including Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, Beaver Creek in Colorado and Heavenly and Northstar resorts in California and Nevada) reported its fiscal second quarter revenue up 13.2 percent to $422.5 million, compared to a year ago. Net income came in at $60.6 million versus $46.4 million a year ago.

Those figures are somewhat inflated, however, as they include Vail’s recent acquisitions of Kirkwood (California/Nevada), Afton Alps (Minnesota) and Mt. Brighton (Michigan) resorts, along with European ski website SkiInfo. The company’s only segment not to benefit from the acquisitions this latest quarter was lodging sales, which fell 3.6 percent.

Company officials did not release total revenue figures excluding those acquisitions — only doing so for certain segments — creating a challenged complete comparison for investors.

Vail’s total mountain revenue, including the acquisitions, rose 14.5 percent to $361.7 million during the quarter. Excluding the acquisitions, mountain revenue rose 9.5 percent to $346 million.

The biggest gain in mountain revenue came from lift ticket revenue, which rose 17.9 percent with the acquisitions and 11.9 percent without. Effective (average) ticket prices rose 3 percent with the acquisitions, 7 percent without. Season pass revenue increased 9.9 percent with the acquisitions, but officials did not release season pass figures minus the acquisitions.

Company officials, who earlier reduced their exceptions due to the weak first half of winter, kept their forecast steady moving ahead, and were upbeat with improved snow conditions continuing into the second half of the winter season throughout much of the country.

Click here to see Vail's fiscal second quarter earnings report, released after the market closed, March 6, 2013.

--David Clucas



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