Vail Re­sorts an­nounces $52M face-lift at Whistler

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Scott Miller

Vail Re­sorts says it will in­vest $52 mil­lion in im­prove­ments at Canada’s Whistler Black­comb re­sort.

Vail pres­i­dent Rob Katz used the com­pany’s quar­terly earn­ings call to an­nounce that Whistler re­sort will be a big part of next year’s cap­i­tal im­prove­ment plan.

At Whistler, Vail will build a 10-pas­sen­ger gon­dola, six-seat chair­lift and high­speed quad.

The gon­dola will be part of what the com­pany calls the world’s first in­ter­con­nec­tion of three gon­do­las at one re­sort.

Dur­ing the call, Katz said the com­pany has plans for a to­tal of $150 mil­lion in moun­tain im­prove­ments in its 2018 fis­cal year. The full plan will be an­nounced in March.

Re­spond­ing to a ques­tion from mar­ket an­a­lysts par­tic­i­pat­ing in the call, Katz said the an­nounce­ment about Whistler al­lows the com­pany to get an early start on mar­ket­ing ef­forts.

Signs will go up at the re­sort this sea­son, and guests will know there are im­prove­ments com­ing. “(That) drives a per­cep­tion of qual­ity,” Katz said. That, in turn, can help draw high-end guests to the re­sort.

Talk­ing about the start to the sea­son, Vail Re­sorts chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Michael Barkin said the com­pany posted a net loss of $28.4 mil­lion in its first quar­ter. That com­pares to a loss of $62.2 mil­lion for the same pe­riod in the 2017 fis­cal year.

That fis­cal year is Aug. 1 to July 31. Re­sorts aren’t op­er­at­ing through much of the pe­riod, so it’s com­mon for the com­pany to post a loss dur­ing the quar­ter.

The news was bet­ter else­where in the com­pany’s op­er­a­tions.

Katz said the com­pany’s sea­son pass sales, through last Sun­day, in­creased 14 per­cent in units and 20 per­cent in rev­enue over the same pe­riod in the pre­vi­ous year.

Over­all, Vail Re­sorts ex­pects to sell 740,000 passes for the 2017-18 sea­son.

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