Vail Resorts' Winter Report

Eric is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

You may have noticed an unusually warm winter this year.  Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN) noticed it too. 

On January 6th the company issued a press release of Ski Season Metrics for the winter season detailing the effects of the weather on Vail.

For the first time in thirty years, the ski resort company will not have adequate snowfall to open the back bowls in Vail.  Those back bowls had 38 feet of snow last year, and are legendary among skiers.

<img src="/media/images/user_21/bowls_large.jpg" />

The lack of snow has not stopped the company from increasing its revenues 0.6% at the lifts this season and getting 0.9% more revenues at ski school.  What it has stopped, is skiing.  Skier visits at the company’s six properties are down 15% this season. 

Vail resorts does not seem to be noticing a difference in its top line at the slopes, but anyone on the slopes will quickly notice that skiing is getting more expensive and that less people are doing it.

The fewer people part is great news if you can spare the extra money.  Everyone’s least enjoyable part about skiing is all the other people out there trying to do it with you.  Getting crashed into or constantly avoiding crashing in to other people adds a lot of complications to something that is supposed to be a vacation activity –not a déjà vu of the morning rush hour commutes you traveled to forget.

There is still plenty of snow at Vail’s resorts even if those back bowls are closed.  A quick perusal shows that Vail Colorado has a 22” base, Beaver Creek has a 28” base, Breck has a 35” base, Keystone a 23” base, Northstar California an 18” base, and that the Heavenly Lake Tahoe resort has an 18” base.  What remains to be seen is the quality of that snow.  At Northstar California for example, temperatures are forecast to hit 49 degrees with full sunshine on Monday, which may make for a slushy mess.

To non-skiers, 49 degrees and sunny in January is great weather. Casual skiers who can no longer afford to visit a resort can at least enjoy things like Vitamin D, a lack of road salt on their cars, and the ability to continue to enjoy ice cream outside.  Vail still seems to be attracting enough well-to-do die hards at the slopes to be enjoying its winter as well.

The author does not own any financial interest in the company mentioned.  Forward looking statements in the article are the author's opinion, and no guarantee can be provided of their future validity.

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