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Vail Resorts: COVID impacts fade, but travel disruptions hurt U.S. ski areas

BROOMFIELD — As fears and restrictions related to COVID-19 fade, Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE: MTN) saw ski area visits and sales increase in the first half of the 2022-2023 ski season.

However, bad weather and even worse performance from airlines over the holidays kept the resort operator from fully cashing in during an important stretch of the early season.

From the beginning of the ski season through Jan. 8, total skier visits were up 12.5% compared to the prior year season-to-date period.

Lift-ticket sales were up 5.3%, ski school revenue was up 35.6% and dining revenue was up 58.0%.

“We are pleased to see the growth across the business. Increased staffing levels relative to the prior year period enabled our mountain resorts to deliver full operations of lifts and mountain terrain and normal operations of important guest experiences such as our restaurants, lodging, ski and ride school, and rental and retail locations, which helped drive a return of ancillary spending,” Vail CEO Kirsten Lynch said in a prepared statement. “Results season to date for the 2022-2023 North American ski season outperformed results from the comparable prior year period, which were negatively impacted by challenging early season conditions, elevated COVID-19 cases associated with the Omicron variant and staffing-driven capacity constraints in our ancillary businesses. Improved conditions at our Colorado, Utah and Tahoe resorts drove a strong rebound in local guest visitation, and the easing of travel restrictions in Canada contributed to a strong rebound in destination visitation at Whistler Blackcomb relative to the prior year period.”

Despite the improved performance, Vail expects its 2023 EBITDA to be in the lower half of its guidance range of $321 million to $396 million.

“Season-to-date destination guest visitation at our western U.S. resorts was below our expectations, which we believe was negatively impacted by the extreme weather causing resort closures and the airline disruptions that impacted travel across the U.S. during the peak holiday period,” Lynch said in a statement. “Based on our significant base of pre-committed guests through advance commitment pass products, strong conditions across our western resorts, and lodging booking trends, we believe that a portion of the visitation we originally expected over the holiday period will occur later in the season.”

Source: BizWest