Vail Resorts boss says pass sales looking up |

Vail Resorts boss says pass sales looking up

Vail Resorts put this photo of a snowboarder on the cover of its annual report for investors this year. Chief Executive Rob Katz said the move reflects a "new excitement" snowboarding and terrain parks bring to the ski-resort industry. (Courtesy Vail Resorts)

VAIL ” Vail Resorts posted its customary loss for August, September and October, when skiers aren’t on its mountains.

But early-season numbers are looking up, said Chief Executive Officer Rob Katz.

Season pass sales and hotel reservations this season have increased over last year, Katz said.

“What you’re seeing in sea­son pass sales and bookings is continued growth and continued interest of people in vacationing at mountain resorts,” Katz said.

Ski pass sales are up 21 per­cent over last year, and hotel bookings are up 15 percent across Vail Resorts’ five moun­tains ” Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly. Katz wouldn’t give reservations numbers for Eagle County only, but said “they’re strong.”

He touted the 4,055 acres already open on Vail Mountain, saying there’s as much open this year as there was this time last year.

“I think the snow helps peo­ple have confidence that the experience will be good,” he said.

Last year, Vail and Beaver Creek mountains both had the most snowfall they’d seen in nine years, although the snow hasn’t been as strong this year.

On the financial side, Vail Resorts reported a loss of $35.8 million for the quarter, com­pared to a loss of $34.3 million last year. The loss equates to 93 cents per share.

“We always have a loss,” Katz said. “We expected to have a loss. It’s generally consistent with our expectations.”

Reservations made through the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau reflected Vail Resorts’ numbers. In November, the chamber booked 32 percent more rooms than it did for last November. Reservations are still coming in steadily, said cham­ber spokeswoman Monica McCafferty.

“Last week was a great week for us,” she said. “A lot of phones were ringing.”

Katz said Vail Resorts has started selling memberships to the Vail Mountain Club, which Katz promised would be “Vail’s most exclusive club to date.”

The Vail Mountain Club, part of the Front Door project, will be near the Vista Bahn chairlift and is supposed to open in 2008. Vail Resorts wants $ 250,000 up front to join the club ” or $100,000 without parking privi­leges. Katz said the company has already collected $15.2 mil­lion from memberships, which went on sale Wednesday.

Katz also emphasized the growing importance of snow­boarding and terrain parks to the bottom line, pointing out that Vail Resorts put a photo of a snowboarder jibbing a rail on the cover of its annual report for investors.

“It was chosen because it’s representative of a whole new level of excitement for our industry,” he said.

Vail Mountain is increasing the size of its terrain parks this year, emphasizing smaller parks. Katz declined to reveal what the price of Vail’s peak season day lift ticket will be this year. Last season, it was $ 81, the most expensive in the nation. Typical­ly, that single- day ticket price, which takes effect in February, is disclosed around this time. One ticket- window vendor con­tacted Monday said she thought it would likely be in the $86-$87 range.

Vail Resorts stock, trading as MTN on the New York Stock Exchange, closed at $45.32, down $1.26.

The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.

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