Business was good, trust us 

The Christmas and New Year’s period was good for both Whistler-Blackcomb and its parent company, Intrawest, but neither will say just how good.

While skier numbers clocked by the mountains over the peak holiday period may be valuable information to resort community residents, Intrawest says releasing the skier stats for this period is of little value to its shareholders.

The information could spook investors one way or the other.

"We will intentionally not be providing specific percentage growth rates," said Intrawest executive vice president and chief financial officer, Daniel Jarvis.

In a conference call with analysts and institutional investors last week, Jarvis, said the percentage increases this year, over the same peak period last year, are not really meaningful in trying to forecast how Intrawest will perform over the entire season, especially considering the poor performances associated with millennium travel issues last winter.

"When you take last year’s numbers, which were depressed because of Y2K travel-related issues, and then you put on top of that some very strong results, you obviously get some pretty exciting percentages," noted Jarvis.

"In our view though, those percentages are not terribly meaningful in trying to assess the results for the full season."

Colorado ski resorts, on the other hand, reported an overall 29 per cent jump in skier visits over last year through the holidays and a seven per cent increase over the state’s five-year average.

Although last winter was a poor snow season for the state, Colorado Ski Country USA president and CEO, David Perry, said the numbers this winter were within two per cent of the record-breaking season of 1997-1998.

While the numbers for Colorado’s Front Range resorts were relatively flat, the destination resorts – which compete directly with Whistler-Blackcomb – experienced a 37 per cent spike in skier visits.

Analysts asked Jarvis if he would discuss how Intrawest’s visits were tracking relative to these Colorado announcements. He would say only that Intrawest resorts "have equalled or exceeded" the competition results. "You can bet our resorts have done very well and our numbers compare favourably with our competition."

Intrawest did, however, say that based on the strong growth in revenue and visits over the Christmas/New Year period compared with last year, combined with bookings in place across all of its resorts, the company is confident it will meet or exceed the estimated 18 per cent growth in EBITDA – or earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization – for this fiscal year.

Jarvis attributed the strong holiday results to an increase of over 3,200 beds at its resorts and the accumulative effect of investments made in facilities and villages over the last three years.

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