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Vail Resorts Q4 Earnings Highlights: So Far, So Good

By Brian Withers and Demitri Kalogeropoulos – Oct 23, 2021 at 8:00AM

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Season pass numbers are up significantly compared to the pandemic lows.

Consumers are showing their commitment to visiting Vail Resorts' (MTN 1.55%) properties by buying season passes at high numbers, even amid lingering uncertainty about the pandemic. In this video clip from "Beat & Raise," recorded on Sept. 24, contributors Brian Withers and Demitri Kalogeropoulos review the company's recent earnings highlights. 

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Brian Withers: Vail Resorts. Ticker symbol MTN, I owned Vail way back when and I don't remember why I sold it. But Demitri, how are they doing?

Demitri Kalogeropoulos: They're doing pretty good. You have the big takeaway here, as I would put it, is so far so good right here because obviously we're in a seasonal low period for most of their resorts Vail, they sell epic passes, they've got resorts all over the world. They're concentrated more in the Rocky Mountain region around Colorado and Utah and California. But they recently bought a huge resort, Whistler in Canada. They've got resorts in Australia. Some of the resorts are in season right now or had their season. They are not completely in the summer low, but basically, this report is useful for what it telegraph is about what we might see next quarter, which is huge for them. But go through just a couple of these things.

The big updated Season Pass numbers, that tells us how many people are committing to showing up at the resort this winter. They call it the 2021, 2022 season. They do it that way because the season starts typically in maybe early November, they have a big holiday push from people have big vacation weeks and around Christmas and thanksgiving. But then the big snow time is obviously the winter months. January, February, March. That's good news, like I said, around season pass sales, those were up significantly compared to the pandemic lows about a year ago. But they always had the sacrifice a lot on pricing, they had 20 percent across-the-board pricing for all their passes for a while, and they've been doing this pretty aggressive promotion for their season passes.

To give you an idea, so they sold about 67 percent more passes so far this year than the same time last year. Again, that's compared to the lows during the pandemic, but that's unit count. So 67 percent more volume, but the sales are up just 45 percent. That reflects the fact that each ticket is going for less cash. That makes sense because what's unusual moment right now for people to be making commitments to travel, it's not the easiest thing to be able to do. There's still some restrictions and capacity restrictions in different places. It makes sense that Vail is trying to sell these maximizing the sales so that they can get those people up in the mountains and they can get higher ski school revenue and lodging revenue and restaurant revenue. Like I said, finances for the quarter are a small part of their full year because we're in the summer months. But they were still pretty good. Lift revenue was up 18 percent year-over-year. That had to do with deferrals basically from late last year because of the pandemic. That's the only reason that number went up. Ski school and lodging numbers are both down significantly compared to last year. That's because we still got travel restrictions in places like Australia and Canada. Capacity restrictions, there wasn't really easy. I think for most of this period, I don't think there's in the US could cross over the border to Canada. You couldn't go visit that's big flow of traffic for one of those resorts.

The capital spending is up, which is good news, I think for shareholders because that Vail is still in a good cash position and it's still aggressively spending on improving the resort experience with things like lift upgrades. That's how bail keeps prices rising over time, despite the fact they're down this year. But it's these investments that most other companies can't do and that helps Vail attract people, repeat visitors that come year after year. The outlook is the big one and that got a solid boost to net income. Management is thinking net income than the land between 300 and 370 million this year compared to 323 in 2019. Count last year a lost year. But we're looking like there's a good chance that this year could get us right back into normal earnings here. But the big one and the big but here is that there's a lot of asterisks attached to that outlook and they always has a few. The big one is whether you just can't predict the weather. If we have a huge storm in November, something that impacts travel around that key period, it can really impact results in the Rockies. If you don't get snow until later, if it takes another 10 days before some good ground cover of snow and all these things that's an interesting unusual variable for this business that investors are used to, shareholders are used to dealing with.

But on top of that, we've got the pandemic and you just don't know what's going to happen with capacity restrictions. Like I said, I think Canada is opening up its border now or just recently did for US visitors. That's good news, but we could have other travel restrictions. Australia had a return to some lockdown measures in this past quarter. That could happen again, and that's a big variable. You just don't know how the pandemic's threat is going to move over the next couple of months. Altogether, it's really good news but we're going to have to wait. Normally, we don't know. Vail is planning on welcoming new guests to some of its resorts in late October and the next side, November, they typically issue an update. Investors can have a good idea, but so we'll know a lot more then, but so far, it's good news.

Demitri Kalogeropoulos has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Vail Resorts. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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