Perk up your ears, snow bunnies. Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN ) has come to own some of the choicest ski resorts in the United States, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone.
These ownership positions provide Vail with a very impressive economic moat. The company also runs sizable real estate and lodging segments to complement its ski resorts through the development and management of hotels, resorts, and private residences. Hilton and Starwood Resorts (NYSE: HOT ) are pursuing a similar strategy. These segments warrant a long-term perspective on the business and make Vail's quarterly fluctuations less of a concern to investors.
Of course, quarterly trends still matter to Wall Street, and the shares continue to be weak as Vail's third-quarter results missed analyst projections rather significantly. Total sales still grew almost 15%, and the earnings miss is somewhat understandable given that food and energy inflation leave fewer discretionary dollars for consumers to spend on ski vacations. But at the same time, management probably should have let investors know of the coming shortfall, as it puts the company at risk of falling below the full-year guidance it laid out back in March.
OK, maybe now I'm getting too caught up in near-term trends. In the earnings press release, CEO Robert Katz proclaimed his excitement for strong ski-pass sales results and the introduction of the Epic Season Pass to allow "skiing at all five of our resorts for the entire season." There are also a wide array of real estate developments in the works, including Marriott's (NYSE: MAR ) Ritz Carlton Residences in Vail and a new resort at the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean as Vail looks to diversify from its winter-destination heritage.
Given the recent stock slide, Vail's stock can be had for less than 20 times this year's earnings projections. I wouldn't characterize that as a steal given the more challenging economic climate right now, but I am keeping an eye out for a further pullback, as Vail Resorts is a truly unique collection of properties for the vacation-minded.