Intrawest ski operation numbers strong 

But company still posts significant drop in earnings in second quarter

An increase in the number of fly-in visitors to Whistler helped keep ski operation numbers high for Intrawest, which announced its second quarter results this week.

"We are seeing some recovery of the fly-in business after the decline last year because of 9/11," Intrawest’s chief financial officer Dan Jarvis said Tuesday.

"At Whistler, which is our one big fly-in resort, tour operators report that our UK traffic is up 6 per cent, Japan up 26 per cent, Australia up 63 per cent, and somewhat closer to home California is up 43 per cent.

"And drive-to to Whistler from the western U.S. continues to be very strong."

But despite the strong numbers in resort operations Intrawest Corporation, which owns and operates Whistler-Blackcomb, reported a sharp drop in profits in its last quarter.

The drop in revenues was due mainly to fewer real estate sales, which fell to $99.4 million from $141 million. The drop was anticipated and more closings on sales are expected later this year.

Jarvis said second-quarter operating earnings of $3.4 million, or 7 cents a share, were down from earnings of $6 million or 14 cents a share in the same period last year.

But he said baby boomers were still buying Intrawest properties and that the company's real estate market was considered a strong option when it came to making investments.

Jarvis said Intrawest is meeting its target in its real estate business.

Despite this Intrawest’s shares have been falling, which Jarvis believes is partly due to jitters over real estate investment.

But he was adamant that Intrawest’s performance should give investors no reason for concern.

Since the start of the year the company’s shares have fallen 10 per cent. And on Tuesday, with the announcement of the second quarter earnings, they dipped again on both the Toronto Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange.

According to the Globe and Mail analysts aren’t expecting to see much of a recovery in the near future.

A bright spot in the quarter results came from ski resort operations, which rose to $108.9 million from $87.5 million.

Skier visits for all Intrawest resorts in the second quarter increased by 20 per cent, to 1.3 million, and revenue per visit was up two per cent.

In Whistler revenue per visit was up 6 per cent said Jarvis, adding that resorts in the east were doing well as they benefited from great snow conditions.

Resorts in the west were flat, as weather has not been great for ski resort operators.

Jarvis added that all resorts were fully booked for the upcoming U.S. Presidents' Day long weekend. But March is looking weak.

Jarvis said he wasn't worried though.

"People are just booking closer to when they want to arrive," said Jarvis.

"We have seen this happen all the way through the season so far."

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