The company released third-quarter and nine-month results earlier today, providing investors a full overview of the last winter's skiing season as the quarter ended April 30. Third-quarter earnings met analyst expectations, rising almost 14% as revenue increased a respectable 8.2%.
Nine-month results included an 18.1% rise in sales and 21% jump in reported earnings. Total ticket revenue increased more than 9% for the period, as lower visitation was offset by a 10.3% increase in ticket prices. Vail makes most of its money by selling lift tickets and activities that go along with skiing, such as lessons, equipment rentals, and food and merchandise.
Vail has posted impressive double-digit sales and cash flow growth on average over the past three years by capitalizing on its ownership of five of the most coveted ski resorts in the country. It owns and operates the venerable Vail, Breckenridge, and Keystone ski facilities and possesses perhaps the most impressive portfolio of ski resorts out there.
But one has to wonder how much more room there is to get more skiers on the slopes. The company realizes the potential for hitting a growth wall and has been increasingly moving into hotel management and developing real estate and other entertainment ventures around its mountain resorts. In fact, its other lodging and real estate ventures have accounted for just a little more than 25% of total revenue so far this year.
You can't argue with the appeal of Vail's current portfolio of ski resorts -- less coveted properties have already attracted private-equity activity. Additionally, it's not as though competitors can build slopes or chateaus next door -- these entertainment properties are unique, much like International Speedway's
Yet it's hard to expand sales and profitability at the same property year after year, especially when they are performing well. During the third quarter, Vail's Resort and real estate segments posted higher sales growth, and they will have to keep doing that for the company's stock to reach new peaks going forward.
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Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further.