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Vail Resorts: skiers visits up slightly, eastern resorts underperforming

 On the Thaynes lift at Park City Mountain.
Parker Malatesta
On the Thaynes lift at Park City Mountain.

Park City Mountain owner Vail Resorts told investors Thursday that its resorts in the eastern half of the United States are falling severely below expectations this season.

Vail operates 26 ski resorts across the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S. The company’s CEO Kirsten Lynch said Thursday that the financial performance at those resorts “were significantly below expectations” after the holiday season.

She attributed that to poor snowfall, which reduced operating days and led to a lack of visitation. In January, only a little over half of available lifts and terrain were available at those 26 mountains.

Lynch said the lack of visitation at those destinations specifically hurts the company because they rely more on daily lift tickets, whereas in the West, visitation is driven more by Epic Pass holders.

“What happened here with the East, is exactly why we’ve been focused on pass,” Lynch told investors during an earnings call Thursday. “It is exactly why this strategy of moving as many of our guests into a pass is so critical.”

Separately, too much snow is hampering access to the company’s resorts in Lake Tahoe.

In total, Vail said skier visits are up 3.6% at all of its North American resorts compared to last season. Additionally, total net revenue during November, December, and January is up over 20% to $1.1 billion.

Lift revenue specifically is up over 13%, which the company said was largely due to earlier resort openings thanks to ample snow.

They said that was specifically the case at Park City Mountain and in Colorado, noting that visitation from locals was strong during the early season. Lynch said they continue to expect their resorts in the West to see strong demand this spring, especially from destination guests.

Revenue from ski school is up 34%, dining is up 59%, with retail and rental up 26%.

The company said the major variables in that increase are a rebound from pandemic behavior and increased staffing. Lynch said dining is still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels.

The company has announced a variety of lift upgrades; however, none are currently planned in Park City.

Vail’s Board of Directors also issued a cash dividend on the company’s stock at around $2 per share. The board also authorized stock buybacks of roughly 3.5 million shares.

Vail Resorts’ stock (MTN) was down slightly in after-hours trading Thursday.

Epic Passes for next season went live earlier this week, and prices increased by around 8%. Lynch said that the increase was largely due to inflation.