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Vail Resorts says skier visits are down nearly 10% this season

Park City Mountain.
Parker Malatesta
Park City Mountain.

Park City Mountain owner Vail Resorts reported a decrease in skier visits in the company’s quarterly earnings report Monday. Executives are blaming low snow.

Through March 3, visits to Vail’s 37 resorts in North America are down 9.7% compared to last winter.

During an earnings call with investors Monday, Vail Resorts Chief Executive Officer Kirsten Lynch said snowfall at its mountains on the western edge of the US was roughly 42% below last winter’s totals through January. Lynch also said resorts in the East and Midwest struggled with limited natural snow and variable temperatures.

Chief Financial Officer Angela Korch said those conditions resulted in fewer visitors on the mountain.

“Across our North American resorts, unfavorable conditions negatively impacted season-to-date visitation, which was below both prior year levels and our expectations based on the number of guests visiting and their frequency,” Korch said. “Following the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, challenging conditions persisted until early March at Whistler Blackcomb and our Tahoe resorts, and while conditions improved at our Rockies and Eastern resorts, visitation did not improve as quickly as expected.”

Despite the decrease in visitation, lift revenue was up slightly for the quarter, which Lynch attributed to strong Epic Pass sales.

Vail’s ancillary businesses, which include ski school, dining and rentals, are experiencing growth in spending.

Still, the company plans to lower its guidance after falling short of expectations. Vail Resorts’ stock, MTN, dipped about 6% in after-hours trading following the quarterly report.

During Monday’s call, the CEO commented on Alterra Mountain Company’s recent purchase of Arapahoe Basin in Colorado.

“It makes a lot sense to us that Alterra appears to be pursuing a strategy that might be more similar to our strategy of an owned and operated model,” Lynch said.

Despite recent purchases, Deer Valley owner and Ikon Pass distributor Alterra is far behind Vail Resorts, which owns 41 ski areas worldwide. Vail’s acquisition of Swiss resort Crans Montana is expected to close this spring, pushing the total to 42.

When Alterra’s purchase of A-Basin is complete, the firm’s portfolio will grow to 18 mountains.

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