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.
In addition to its resorts in Western mountain states, the company also owns a handful of ski resorts in the Midwest.
The company reports revenue in three business segments: Mountain (which accounts for about 75% of revenue per year), Lodging (which accounts for about 20% of revenue per year), and Real Estate.
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 networking, search marketing, and display ads), loyalty programs that reward frequent guests, and traditional media advertising such as targeted print, TV, and radio ads.
Vail Resorts has used partnerships as a way to promote its resorts. The company's partners have included American Express, GoPro, Hertz, Nature Valley, and Starbucks.
The company's revenue has been increasing year-over-year. It reported revenue of about $1.25 billion for fiscal 2014, up roughly 10% compared to the previous fiscal period when Vail Resorts reported $1.1 billion in revenue. The spike in revenue was largely the result of increased revenue from the company's Mountain segment.
Despite the increased total annual revenue, the company's net income fell about 25% in fiscal 2014 compared to fiscal 2013. It reported net income of a little more than $28 million for fiscal 2014, down from the roughly $37 million it claimed for net income the prior year. The decrease in net income was primarily caused by debt obligations, interest, and a lack of income from property sales.
The company's cash flow increased by some $23 million in fiscal 2014 compared to fiscal 2013 levels. The increased cash on hand came from increased proceeds from mountain operations and real estate development project closings.
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.
The company invests around $10 million per year to make enhancements to the ski and ride experience for its guests.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Vail Resorts expands by purchasing existing ski resorts. The company expanded into Utah in recent years. In 2013 it acquired Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah and in 2014 it acquired the Park City Mountain Resort in Park City, Utah for about $182.5 million.