Vail Resorts posted its first-quarter financials on Thursday, Dec. 10, and they show the continued strain from COVID-19 on the Colorado ski giant.
For the three months ending Oct. 31, 2020, Whistler Blackcomb’s parent company’s net revenue was down USD$131.5 million compared to the same period in 2019, while net loss was $153.8 million for the quarter, a 44.4-per-cent drop, primarily as a result of the pandemic.
“Our first fiscal quarter historically operates at a loss, given that our North American mountain resorts are generally not open for ski season operations during the period,” said CEO Rob Katz in Thursday’s earnings calls, adding that the first quarter’s results are largely driven by winter operations from its Australian resorts as well as summer activities at its North American properties. “Our results for the first quarter continued to be negatively impacted by COVID-19.”
Resort reported EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) loss for the period was $94.8 million, compared to $76.7 million for the same quarter last year, primarily as a result of the negative impacts of COVID-19 and “partially offset by disciplined cost management and $15.4 million of lift revenue” associated with the expiration of credit offers to 2019/2020 pass holders.
On that front, Vail Resorts has seen some positive movement. Season pass sales through Dec. 6 had increased approximately 20 per cent in units, while pass sales dollars stayed flat for the quarter due to redeeming credits to 2019/2020 pass holders whose season was cut short by the pandemic. Without deducting the value of the credits, pass sales dollars rose approximately 19 per cent compared to last year.
“We are very pleased with the growth in our season pass program, particularly given the challenging circumstances surrounding the impacts of COVID-19. We expect that the total number of guests on all advanced purchase passes this year will exceed 1.4 million including all passes for our North American and Australian resorts, demonstrating the significant loyalty of our guest base and the strong demand for our mountain resorts,” Katz said. “Since September, pass sales exceeded our expectations primarily driven by continued strong demand from destination guests and significant growth in pass sales to guests who were not previously in our database, particularly in lower frequency Epic Day Pass products.”
In North America, the company said its U.S. resorts “experienced improved demand from leisure travelers throughout the quarter relative to the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020,” but summer visitation stayed “well below historical levels.” Unsurprisingly, demand at Whistler Blackcomb for the quarter was “significantly below prior year levels due in part to travel restrictions” and the border remaining closed to international guests, the company reported.
Reopening its North American resorts with strict health and safety protocols in place, Katz said “the safety of our guests, employees and communities continues to be our top priority.
“Currently, the reservation system, which opened to pass holders on November 6, 2020 and lift ticket purchasers on December 8, 2020, continues to have available capacity for almost all days during the core season across our resorts. The reservation systems and our contingency planning around our operations has positioned us to react quickly to the changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19 restrictions across our resort jurisdictions, which we expect will continue throughout the season."
The company also said it has “significant liquidity,” with $614 million in cash on hand as of Nov. 30, and $587 million of availability under its U.S. and Whistler Blackcomb revolving credit facilities.
To read the full quarterly report, visit investors.vailresorts.com.