Let's nip a seasonality lesson in the bud, bud.

Last night, Six Flags (NYSE:PKS) posted third-quarter profits of $1.32 a share. I can almost assure you that some gnarly West Coast surfer dude who's banged his head against Magic Mountain coaster restraints way too many times is reading that this morning and drooling: $1.32 multiplied by four quarters is roughly -- hey, dude, Six Flags is trading for little more than its annualized earnings.

No way! For starters, the assessment is flat-out flawed given Six Flags' hyper coaster-high debt levels that must be factored into the company's enterprise value. But we're also talking about the regional amusement park operator's bread-and-butter summer period. For the year as a whole the company is actually looking to post a loss.

How so? Well, while one might assume that the company's operating overhead during the rest of the year is pretty low given the shuttered parks, debt payments and amortization chunks don't know the meaning of off-season.

Don't blame the sector. Such companies as Disney (NYSE:DIS), Cedar Fair (NYSE:FUN), and Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD) have no problem turning a profit in their amusement park operations. Six Flags is in this pickle because financing its past acquisition sprees has leveraged and ultimately handcuffed the company. It is looking to cut costs but it's the park goer who will pay the ultimate price.

Turnstile traffic will dip slightly this year as it did the year before. The company expects attendance of just 35 million guests chain wide. Next year doesn't look too promising as Six Flags has slashed its capital spending budget to just $75 million. Parks need new rides to grow attendance and that paltry sum won't bring a shiny new scream machine to a Six Flags near you. The company had earmarked $130 million in capital spending this year and you already know how that turned out.

The creditors may like it. The company? It's in denial. It originally expected a 4% up tick in attendance this year and it will probably wax optimistic when it reveals its 2004 guidance next quarter.

With the company's collection of choice real estate and its lucrative target audience, it hurts to see Six Flags fare this poorly. The potential is so obvious. But like any great ride, there is a limit to how long folks will be willing to wait in line for the experience.

Have you made it out to our Travel Center to start planning your 2004 summer vacation? Will it include a theme park? How safe are roller coasters anyway?All this and more -- in the Roller Coaster Loving Fools discussion board. Only on Fool. com.