SAM Magazine—Broomfield, Colo., Dec. 7, 2018—Vail Resorts reported a jump of 21 percent in Epic Pass sales through Dec. 2, with revenues rising 13 percent, compared the year-earlier period, according to its latest quarterly report issued today. Total sales are expected to exceed 925,000 units, a significant number considering the competition created by the formation of Alterra Mountain Company and its Ikon Pass.
Unit sales of the Epic Pass were boosted by the new military pass, introduced last March, priced at $99 (for active and retired military with 20 years of service) and $499 (for vets and their dependents). VR reported sales of 100,000 passes to military members, retirees, and their families.
But even excluding sales of military passes to new purchasers who were not pass holders last year, season pass sales increased approximately 8 percent in units and 10 percent in dollars over the comparable period in the prior year.
The year over year pass sales comparisons include VR's most recent acquisitions, Stevens Pass and the former Triple Peaks resorts, Crested Butte, Okemo, and Mount Sunapee, for both years.
"For the year, and excluding sales of military passes to new purchasers who were not pass holders last year, we achieved solid growth in our Colorado, destination, and Whistler Blackcomb markets, while experiencing declines in both the Northern California and Utah markets," said VR CEO Rob Katz.
Excluding sales to the Northern California and Utah markets and sales to new military pass holders who were not pass holders last year, VR's season pass unit growth was up 11 percent. VR said it was "pleased" by its growth in the Northeast, thanks to the inclusion of Stowe, Okemo, and Mount Sunapee in the past two years.
"This growth in new pass holders is particularly notable following the record new pass holder growth we achieved in the prior two years," Katz said. "We also saw solid growth in our renewing pass holders and a stable renewal rate, outside of our Tahoe and Utah markets, which saw a modest decline.
"Excluding sales to new military pass holders, our revenue growth, as compared to unit growth, was slightly lower than in previous years, as we continue to broaden the penetration of our pass program to products designed for lower frequency guests."
VR considers its military pass program a boon not just to the pass recipients, but to VR as well. "This significant expansion of our passholder base creates a meaningful business opportunity for our company, while building tremendous loyalty with these new guests," Katz said.
Overall, VR said lodging bookings for the season are trending in line with prior years, and the company reaffirmed its guidance for fiscal year 2019 EBITDA of $718 million to $750 million. Based on historical averages, roughly half of winter season bookings have been made by this time. VR has experienced strong conditions at its Western U.S. and Northeastern U.S. resorts. Colorado resorts have had a particularly strong start to the season. Stowe and Okemo both opened earlier than in prior years. VR's Tahoe and Utah resorts opened with typical conditions for this time of year, while Whistler Blackcomb's early season "has been more challenging" Katz said.