Vail Resorts (MTN 0.16%) shareholders have trailed the market through most of 2019 despite generally strong results from the global ski resort giant. Revenue and profits each set new records in the most recent fiscal year as Vail overcame weak international visitation by marketing better to local skiers in and around the Rocky Mountains.
Executives said back in September that booking trends looked healthy heading into the 2019/2020 ski season, and investors will get key updates on booking trends for season passes and lodging stays when Vail reports its fiscal first-quarter results on Monday, Dec. 9.
Let's take a look at the metrics Wall Street will be watching in that announcement.
The fiscal first quarter is Vail's weakest sales period, since its North American resorts aren't open for ski operations during that time. Revenue last year, for example, was just $220 million compared to more than $800 million in the second quarter.
Yet Vail's global base of resorts means it benefits from winter conditions in a few properties, particularly in Australia. Its summer business in the U.S. and Canada also books robust resort spending in water parks, hiking, tours, and retail operations.
The consumer discretionary stock's resort footprint has expanded this past year, too, with recent acquisitions including Peak Resorts in the U.S. and Falls Creek in Australia. Put all these positive trends together, and they should result in revenue of about $258 million, according to Wall Street targets, for a 17% increase year over year.
Season pass updates
The start of peak ski season is still a few weeks away, but investors will get a good idea of how that period might go with Vail's season pass sale updates this week. The company has several tweaks in the works for those passes this year. It has spent lots of cash upgrading its lifts, for example, and including more resorts in its annual pass packages. Vail is also getting better at marketing these products to both local skiers and international visitors.
As a result, investors will want to see a healthy boost in season pass volumes -- along with increasing average prices -- when the company announces its final preseason update this week.
Getting ready for the season
Vail's outlook each year usually comes with a big asterisk that communicates how sensitive its results are to winter weather conditions in North America. Its 2020 forecast back in September assumed "normal weather conditions throughout the ski season" that might or might not actually occur. The start of last year's season, after all, was sluggish when unusually warm weather crimped results during the month of December.
Vail has tried to minimize that risk this year by adding comprehensive snow-making functionality to several of its resorts so that it can deliver a better ski experience around the key holiday weeks in late December. As a result, investors might get a more concrete outlook update when CEO Rob Katz and his team announce their latest 2020 predictions on Monday. Still, actual results might vary significantly from that forecast depending on weather patterns over the next few months. Shareholders will have to wait for Vail's midseason update in a few weeks for more clarity on those snowfall totals.