With snowfall rebounding a bit from the abysmal winter of 2011-12, Vail Resorts Inc. said visits to its Colorado and California ski areas are up 3.8 percent so far this season.
That increase in visitation through Sunday translated into even better financial returns for the ski industry giant. Lift ticket revenue was up 10.3 percent compared to the same period a year earlier, while customer spending on dining was up 12.5 percent and ski school earnings rose 11.8 percent. Revenue from retail and rental operations climbed 10 percent, according to Vail's latest quarterly earnings report.
"The growth in season-to-date visitation and ancillary revenue reflects the continued strong performance of our business despite … a challenging start to the season," said Vail Resorts Chief Executive Rob Katz.
As one of the country's largest ski companies with four resorts in Colorado, three in California and two in Michigan Vail's performance is viewed as a barometer of the industry. Utah's 14 ski resorts are privately owned and do not release information about their individual visitation or financial performances.
Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, marketing arm of the state's industry, said he thinks Utah's lift ticket sales are up about 8 percent over last winter. That would put the resorts within reach of having their third-busiest season on record, a solid recovery from the 10 percent decline in visits during 2011-12.
"I don't think we'll get back to where we were two years ago," Rafferty said of the unusually snowy 2010-11 season, the second-highest in visitation at 4,223,064. "But it's better than last year, for sure."
In Vail's report, Katz said a slow season start turned around right on time the busy Christmas week.
"[Then] conditions in Colorado returned to more normal patterns, leading to strong visitation and significant consumer spending in our ancillary businesses producing a record holiday season," Katz said, citing a 5.5 percent revenue increase from company-managed luxury hotels and condominium units.
Overall, Vail reported net income of $60.6 million, or $1.65 per share, for the quarter ending Jan. 31. That was up from earnings of $46.4 million, or $1.27 per share, a year earlier. Earnings were based on net revenue of $408 million for the period, up 12 percent from the previous year.
Vail's board raised the quarterly cash dividend by 10 percent to 21 cents per share, the report said.
Free concert at Snowbasin
Snowbasin Resort above Ogden will stage a free concert March 17 on the Earl's Lodge patio to thanks customers for their patronage this season. Lukas Nelson and his band, Promise of the Real, will perform from 3:30-6 p.m.