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Vail Resorts announces US$175 million to ‘reimagine the guest experience’ at its resorts

Also, Colorado company reports first-quarter financial results
Vail Resorts today announced an investment of between US$175 million and $180 million that will go in part to developing new mobile technology that will allow guests who have purchased lift tickets in advance to bypass the ticket window altogether. Photo by Mike Crane / Tourism Whistler

Whistler Blackcomb owner Vail Resorts announced a major investment on Friday, Dec. 7 that the company says will “reimagine the guest experience” across its roster of resorts.

In a release, the Broomfield, Colo.-based company said it will spend between US$175 million and $180 million at its 18 properties in time for the 2019-2020 ski season.

“Vail Resorts has been the leader in resort investment year after year and this year is no exception," said Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz in the release. “We are continuing to raise the bar for skiers and riders with meaningful, impactful improvements that will help to provide consistent, reliable and seamless experiences all season long.”

Vail Resorts said it plans to “increase express lift ticket fulfilment capacity” by 40 per cent through new handheld, mobile technology at its 17 North American resorts to allow guests who have purchased advance tickets to bypass the ticket window altogether and obtain their radio-frequency enabled lift ticket from roving agents at base-area lift. Guests will then be able to move directly into the primary lift line.

“Reducing guest wait times is a top priority across Vail Resorts," said Katz. "Direct-to-lift technology enhancements for advance purchase lift tickets is one of the more significant transformational investments we can make to improve the guest experience.”

Season passholders or their guests will also be able to pre-purchase Ski with a Friend benefit tickets online for 2019-2020 to take advantage of express fulfilment thanks to the company’s new mobile capabilities at base-area lifts.

Among other upgrades slated for the 2019-2020 season at its American and Australian resorts, Vail Resorts said it is planning investments in snowmaking at Vail, Keystone and Beaver Creek in Colorado in an effort to get the resort open earlier in the year.

Vail Resorts posts loss in first quarter

Vail Resorts posted a net loss of US$107.8 million in its first fiscal quarter of 2019, compared to a net loss of $28.4 million over the same period last year. 2018’s fist fiscal quarter net loss included a tax benefit of approximately $51.8 million related to “employee exercises of equity awards, primarily attributable to the CEO’s exercise of stock appreciation rights during the quarter,” a release read.

CEO Rob Katz said a first-quarter loss is nothing new for the company.

"Our first fiscal quarter historically operates at a loss, given that our North American mountain resorts are not open for ski operations during the period,” he said in the release. “The quarter's results are primarily driven by winter operating results from Perisher and our North American resorts' summer activities, dining, retail/rental and lodging operations, and administrative expenses.”

The resort reported EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) loss for the quarter was $72.5 million, which includes $6.6 million in acquisition of acquisition- and integration-related expenses and an incremental loss of $2.6 million from offseason operations at the resorts acquired during the quarter. The resort reported EBITDA loss from last year’s first quarter was $54.1 million, which included $700,000 in acquisition- and integration-related expenses.

Through Dec. 2, season pass sales for the 2018-2019 North American ski season had increased by roughly 21 per cent in units and 13 per cent in sales dollars compared to the same period last year.

"We are very pleased to see double digit revenue growth in our season pass program after a very strong record performance last year,” Katz said. “For the year, and excluding sales of military passes to new purchasers who were not passholders last year, we achieved solid growth in our Colorado, Destination and Whistler Blackcomb markets, while experiencing declines in both the Northern California and Utah markets.”

Katz went on to say that, including military and Epic Australia passes, Vail Resorts expects its total number of season passholders to exceed 925,000 this year.

For the full quarterly report, visit