Vail Resorts hopes the ski vacation business is all uphill. One of North America's leading ski resort operators, Vail Resorts operates four mountain resorts in Colorado (Beaver Creek, Breckenridge Mountain Resort, Keystone Resort, and Vail Mountain) and three in Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border (Heavenly Mountain, Northstar-at-Tahoe, and Kirkwood Mountain Resort). The resorts operate under the company's Mountain segment. Through its Lodging segment, the firm owns or manages about 20 resorts in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and the West Indies; it also operates six golf courses. Vail Resorts also has a Real Estate Development segment that develops real estate in and around the company's resorts.
Peak operating season for Vail Resorts is, of course, ski season, which lasts from mid-November through mid-April. The company's largest source of revenue is its Mountain segment, which makes most of its money from the sale of lift tickets (including season passes). Lift tickets represent about 45% of the Mountain segment's net revenue.
In order to deal with challenges in the tourism and real estate markets, Vail Resorts has also been diversifying into revenue streams beyond its core operations. Its Mountain News Corporation operates the online snow sports portal OnTheSnow.com and resort guide information provider MountainGetaway.com. Mountain News targets the nearly 400,000 skiers, snowboarders, and resort travelers who subscribe to its websites.
Like many of its rival ski operators, the company has been focused on marketing its ski properties as year-round operations in an effort to avoid serious business declines during periods of unseasonable winters. Vail Resorts promotes the use of its resorts for summer activities, such as mountain biking, zip lines, ropes courses, golf, tennis, and fishing to woo warm-weather visitors.
Sales and marketing
The company promotes its resorts through a variety of targeted marketing and sales programs. These include customer relationship marketing (CRM) to targeted audiences, promotional programs, digital marketing via its websites (including social neworking, search marketing, and display ads), loyalty programs that reward frequent guests, and traditional media advertising such as targeted print, TV, and radio ads.
In 2011 Vail Resorts announced a partnership agreement with Olympic gold medalist, professional snowboarder, and skateboarder Shaun White. As part of the deal, White began representing all of the company's ski resorts, and Northstar at Lake Tahoe became his primary training resort.
The 2011/2012 season was not so bright for Vail Resports. Revenues dropped 12% and net income decreased by 52% compared to the prior year. Historically low snowfall caused a drop in the number of skiers. The company was also negatively affected by a decrease in revenue from real estate, due to the closing of 20 condo units at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Vail and One Ski Hill Place.
Net income dropped due to an increase in costs associated with of online retail sales and increased administrative costs. The company also reported an increase in real estate expenses resulting from the closing of the condo units.
Cash flow also decreased in 2012. It did so thanks to a reduction in proceeds from real estate closings.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In 2012 the company expanded its holdings when it acquired Kirkwood Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe, California, for about $18 million. The purchase added a third property to the company's portfolio of resorts in the area, joining Heavenly Mountain and Northstar-at-Tahoe.
In order to diversify revenue streams, in 2010 it acquired Mountain News Corporation, which operates the online snow sports portal OnTheSnow.com and resort guide information provider MountainGetaway.com. In 2012 OnTheSnow.com expanded through the purchase of Skiinfo.com; it made the deal to expand its global presence, as Skiinfo is Europe's most visited snow sports site. – less