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Vail and Beaver Creek Ski Resorts

‘You Can’t Buy That Kind of Publicity’

imagesReopening Vail Mountain for an extra weekend is pretty cool. Reopening it six weeks after closing day is really cool.

Vail Associates, the precursor to Vail Resorts, reopened Vail Mountain in early June of 1983 or ‘84. Harry Frampton had just finished his first ski season as president of the company, and recalled that the late spring weather turned snowy, just like it has the past couple of weeks.  “We had something like four or five feet of snow,” Frampton said. So, with a few people on hand, the company reopened the mountain. Frampton recalled that much of the mountain crew was off in warmer climates, particularly Lake Powell. Larry Lichliter, then the company’s chief operating officer, started making some calls, and, in those days before cell phones, actually got through to several key employees.  “Enough came back that we were able to do it,” Frampton said.

Soon enough, there were photos in the national press of skiing in June at Vail.“We got incredible press from it,” Frampton said.  Longtime resident Craig Denton wasn’t in town when the mountain reopened that year — in fact, he and his family were in Hawaii. But they heard about skiing in June in Vail, from both friends and in the national press.  “Everybody we heard from was excited — and you can’t buy that kind of publicity,” Denton said.

While Vail doesn’t reopen very often, bonus skiing returned just a couple of years later, after George Gillett had bought Vail Associates.  “We really enjoyed it — we had a lot of fun,” Gillett said, adding that the bottom line didn’t have much to do with the move at the time — and probably doesn’t now. “It’s not done with a profit motive in mind,” Gillett said. “In fact, it’s expensive as all get-out.”

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Vail Resorts Launches New Summit-centric Pass

imagesVail Resorts announced the launch of a new season pass this winter, providing skiers and snowboarders to Summit County’s two east-side resorts, Keystone Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.  The new “Keystone A-Basin” pass, introduced at $279 for adults with escalating pricing as the year goes on, is restricted during the peak Thanksgiving, Christmas, Martin Luther King and Presidents Day holiday timeframes.  “It’s an incredible value especially for families and folks on the Front Range,” Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kathleen Lessman said. The new pass follows the introduction of a new program at Keystone allowing children under the age of 12 to ski for free at the resort when families book two or more nights with resort-owned lodging. Both Keystone and A-Basin are situated along Highway 6 on the eastern side of Summit County.

The Keystone A-Basin pass is the second Summit-centered offering in the Vail Resorts arsenal, alongside the Summit Value pass, which provides restricted access to Breckenridge Ski Resort as well as A-Basin and Keystone.  The Broomfield-based company also recently announced the addition of Eldora Mountain Resort, near Boulder, to its premium Epic Pass in the coming winter season.  The pass now includes unlimited access to nine resorts in Colorado, Nevada and California.

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Skiing’s Season Pass Revolution Now Includes Lodging

CBMR-FireworksIn the past two years I have covered the fast evolving world of season ski passes, which are a game changer for ski travelers. This trend just keeps getting better.

The main players I have profiled here are Vail Resorts with its Epic Pass, now good at 13 major resorts across Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, Michigan and Minnesota, plus partners in Austria and Switzerland. The other major option is The Mountain Collective, a package of discounted lift tickets across several independent powerhouse resorts including Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson, Alta, Snowbird, Whistler/Blackcomb, Mammoth and Alpine Meadows/Squaw Valley. There are also more niche regional products such as Utah’s Ski Salt Lake Super Pass and Colorado’s Rocky Mountain SuperPass.

So what’s the newest wrinkle in the world of ski season passes? Well at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, whose season pass already includes limited free skiing at Okemo in Vermont and Sunapee in New Hampshire, the town’s Nordic Inn has upped the ante considerably with an entirely new concept, combining a traditional season pass with 10 flexible nights of bed and breakfast lodging. This means you can make up to two 5-day trips to Crested Butte to use the pass and each time have a place to stay at no additional charge. Or you can break the ten days up however you want for multiple visits at any time from Nov. 20, 2013 through April 6, 2014, with no blackout dates, and extra days are available as an add-on at a 40% discount. If your schedule is flexible you can chase storms and come just for fresh powder. At the same time, Crested Butte Mountain Resort just lowered its regular adult season pass prices by more than 40 percent, just $599 for a full-season adult ski pass with no blackout dates.

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Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz: ‘We Are Very Pleased’

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This is a great article from the Vail Daily about Vail Resort’s 2013 Fiscal Year.

Vail Resorts officials Friday reported strong results for the company’s 2013 fiscal year, with gains in everything from pass sales to ski school revenue.

In a Friday call, company CEO Rob Katz said he’s “proud of our accomplishments” for the fiscal year — from Aug. 1, 2012, to July 31 of this year — saying the numbers reflect “… higher overall visitation, improved pricing, increased average guest spend and strong pass sales.” The company’s stock finished the day at $69.59, up 61 cents from the previous day’s closing price.

Katz gave call participants an upbeat look at the company’s performance. Season pass revenue increased 8.8 percent from the previous fiscal year driven, in part, by the company’s management deal for The Canyons resort in Park City, Utah.

Katz added that the company’s acquisitions of small, Midwest ski areas — Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mount Brighton in Michigan — have also helped spur season pass and lift ticket sales. Pass sales in the past fiscal year also include a new pass for Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, as well as the addition of resorts in Austria and France to the traditional Epic Pass. Those additions mean the company is growing in both the “high end” and “value” markets, Katz said.

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Vail Cuts 42 Jobs As It Lines Up to Run Canyons Resort

vail cuts jobsMore than 40 Canyons Resort employees learned they will no longer be part of the operation when Vail Resorts Inc. takes over next week.

Denver-based Vail Resorts, which signed a long-term lease last month to run the Park City-area resort for Talisker Mountain Inc., said Monday it will retain most of the resort’s total workforce of 1,800. But 42 positions in Utah were eliminated after the industry giant did a “comprehensive review [of] areas where we need to consolidate duties, change or redirect resources and eliminate duplicate efforts,” said Vail spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga.

Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah, marketing arm of the state’s $1 billion-a-year industry, said he did not know any specifics about the cuts but added a reduction in force seemed “inevitable” since Vail has a well-established corporate structure that would not need duplicated efforts by personnel in Park City.

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2012-13 Skier Visits Creep Up by 4 Percent in Colorado

Arapahoe Basin Ski AreaColorado’s ski areas hosted 11.4 million skier visits last season, a nearly 4 percent increase over the previous season’s 11 million.

The 11.4 million mark, while an increase over the dismal and dry 2011-12 season, is the third-slowest season in the past decade, and the annual increase falls well below the national spike of 11 percent.

Colorado Ski Country USA, the trade group that represents 21 of the state’s 25 ski areas, reported 6.4 million skier visits in 2012-13, an increase of 3.8 percent, or 235,000 skier visits, over 2011-12. Vail Resorts’ four Colorado ski areas — Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and Beaver Creek — saw about 5 million skier visits.

Colorado’s 2012-13 season started slowly, with weak snow and local skiers staying home. Storms in late December and late spring fueled a rebound in visitation. But it wasn’t enough to pull the state closer to the 12 million-skier-visit benchmark it reached in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011.

Declining skier visits does not necessarily correlate to decreasing revenues, as evidenced by ski areas that saw increased revenues in 2011-12, which saw record declines in visitation.

Vail Resorts Management Discusses Q3 2013 Results

imagesSkier visits at our Colorado resorts for the quarter were up 11.8% over the prior year, offset in part by a decline in skier visits of 0.4% at Heavenly and Northstar, where unusually warm and dry temperatures this spring negatively impacted results.

For the 3 months ended April 30, 2013, excluding the Acquisitions, lift revenue excluding season pass revenue was up 13.4%, compared with the same period in the prior year. We also saw continued growth in ancillary revenue, driven by increased guest spend, with dining revenue up 13.9%, ski school revenue up 11.8% and retail/rental revenue up 7.4%, excluding the Acquisitions.

Retail/rental results were modestly tempered by results in our city store locations. Mountain Reported EBITDA, excluding the Acquisitions, increased $19.2 million or 11.2% for the quarter, compared to the same period in the prior year. Our lodging segment benefited from increased visitation, especially during peak holiday periods, with total occupancy increasing by 2.3 percentage points, along with rate increases as Average Daily Rate, ADR, increased 2.9% at our owned hotels and managed condominiums.

As a result of improved operating efficiency, we increased lodging EBITDA margins by 2.9 percentage points, contributing to a 22.1% increase in Lodging Reported EBITDA, as compared to the same period in the prior year.

Our Real Estate segment continues to see increased demand and we are encouraged by the level of interest and rate of sales we are seeing at both of our development projects.

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The Epic Pass Will Include Canyons Next Season

indexThe Epic Pass, a prized multi-resort ski pass sold by Vail Resorts, will include access to Canyons Resort during the next ski season, a result of the lease deal between Talisker Corporation and Vail Resorts involving Canyons Resort.

In a prepared statement announcing the lease, Vail Resorts says people who buy the Epic Pass will be able to use it at the Snyderville Basin resort on an “unlimited and unrestricted” basis.

The Epic Pass is also good at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone, which are in Colorado, and the Lake Tahoe-region resorts of Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood. It also offers holders five days of skiing at a resort in Switzerland and a combined five days at three resorts in Austria, including St. Anton.

The statement says the Epic Pass for the 2013-2014 ski season is currently priced at $689 for adults, lower than the price of a season pass at Canyons Resort during the most recent ski season.

The Epic Pass is well known in the industry for offering buyers flexibility between two of North America’s prime skiing regions, Colorado and Lake Tahoe.

Vail and Snowmass Expanding

In anticipation of its 50th winter of operations, Vail is completing installation of a new gondola, using the same alignment as the original gondola when operations began in 1962. The similarities end there, however. Each car on this new gondola will have heated leather seats and Wi-Fi access. It’s also the fastest of its type in the world.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service approval of a ski area expansion at Breckenridge has been appealed by two groups, reports the Summit Daily News. One of the appeals contends that habitat for lynx will be fragmented by the ski area operations.

The Aspen Skiing Co. will be allowed to go forward with its 230-acre expansion in an area of Snowmass called Burnt Mountain. A U.S. District Court judge ruled that a Wyoming group was out of order in its objection and should have noted its argument at the proper time. The expansion will make Snowmass the second largest ski area in Colorado, behind Vail.

 

Switzerland is Now Epic: Vail + Verbier Join Forces

Vail Resorts announced today an unprecedented partnership with Verbier, Switzerland, that will enhance the already incredible value of Vail Resorts’ Epic Season Pass, providing three days of free access to the Verbier ski resort, including Les 4 Vallees, the largest ski area in Switzerland, for new and renewing 2012-2013 Epic Season Pass holders. In addition to unlimited, unrestricted skiing and riding at eight world-class mountain resorts in the United States, Epic Pass holders will now have the opportunity to extend their winter to Europe and experience four additional premier mountain resorts including the illustrious Verbier resort, as well as Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Thyon, Switzerland. The “Four Valleys” ski area boasts breathtaking views of the Rhone Valley and the infamous Matterhorn, and extend to the Valais and Bernese Alps, culminating in the largest ski area in Switzerland.

“Vail Resorts Epic Season Pass holders already receive an incredible experience with unlimited, unrestricted access to Vail Resorts’ seven world-class resorts including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, KeystoneHeavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, as well as Arapahoe Basin, but we wanted to give them even more benefits by offering Epic Season Pass holders three free days of skiing at the legendary Verbier ski resort, including Les 4 Vallees  in Switzerland,” said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Vail Resorts.

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