Vail Resorts Earnings Call Insights: Season Passes, International

On Wednesday, Vail Resorts, Inc. (NYSE:MTN) reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Here’s what the C-suite shared.

Season Passes

Felicia Hendrix – Barclays Capital: Rob, regarding the season pass sales, I clearly understand the comment that you made that the current pace we should expect that to slow. Just wondering though and it’s kind of early this environment that we are in, but are you seeing anything economically driven at all to may be affect that view?

Robert A. Katz – Chairman and CEO: No. I mean I don’t think we have seen anything in our season pass sales at spring that would indicate that an economic – a negative economic impact to our sales performance. I mean obviously it’s out there and we are certainly selling in a period right now that’s a little bit may be less robust and then six months ago, nine months ago, but we certainly did not see that or if it was there we overcome it quite easily.

Felicia Hendrix – Barclays Capital: Then also, the details of your season pass holders on the ski one day less was really interesting especially give the poor snowfall, I was just wondering what that data point is telling you?

Robert A. Katz – Chairman and CEO: Well, I think it tells you two things one is I think that people I think it was reflected right in the season pass sales performance for the spring, so one I think it shows that people did use their season pass. And despite of challenging weather year they still got up to the mountain and were able to get an experience even if the experience this year wasn’t as good as it was last year because of conditions. I think maybe to our business model what it says is that our most weather sensitive guests because they purchased this season pass skis more, right. And they are to take more trips up to the mountain and even for folks in the Denver or Bay Area, we get extra spending for them, so they will still contribute to results for us on dining and retail and other and even ski schools, or kid ski school. I think the season pass really helps on so many different levels one is that we absolutely believe our folks ski more because they have the pass even during challenging weather conditions.

Felicia Hendrix – Barclays Capital: Jeff on the lodging side, obviously your revenues were kind of flat year-over-year, the flow through was than expected. I am assuming that mostly due to the RockResorts charge just wondering. Can you adjust that for us maybe what your EBIT, what was that charge, so we could make that adjustment?

Jeffrey W. Jones – Co-President and CFO: I think that we are not going to disclose that individually as part of the lodging results, but I’d say a big part of what the expense hit was, given that both, in all of that reorganization effectiveness from this quarter that we instituted and initialized. I think the big thing for you to look forward to is that net increase in Lodging results that we’ll see annually from this and a return to a more normal flow-through that we typically see in our Lodging results.

Felicia Hendrix – Barclays Capital: But ex this, there’s nothing else in that business that you saw this quarter. If this wasn’t there, we would see more normalized flow-through?

Jeffrey W. Jones – Co-President and CFO: Yes, definitely.

Felicia Hendrix – Barclays Capital: Then just also on your balance sheet, your net debt is at 1.8 times last 12 months EBITDA. You obviously have kept powder dry to do certain acquisitions which have been very strategic, but can you just discuss debt level versus how would think about would you lever up to perhaps buyback more stock? How are you thinking about your really low debt levels right now?

Robert A. Katz – Chairman and CEO: I think that we are absolutely committed to returning capital to shareholders. I think we have pretty long track record of buying back stock. We instituted a dividend recently. I think we obviously are focused there. We also increased that dividend substantially this year. There’s no question that I think we will be looking very closely buying back more stock I think as we go forward in current quarters, and I think we are going to be looking at both dividends and buyback continuously. Obviously we are going to constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to both invest in our business and make acquisitions. But certainly in absence of that, we are not just going to hold on to cash, and I would say that we intend to continue to be aggressive on actually all three fronts, internal investments, acquisitions and returning capital to shareholders.

International

Steven Wieczynski – Stifel Nicolaus: On the international side, I mean, it’s pretty impressive in terms of the demand for your products later in the ski season this year, but can you kind of talk about what you are expecting for the ’12-’13 ski season. I guess from the international side and I guess also with the dollar strengthening, do you think that’s going to have any material impact on visitation?

Robert A. Katz – Chairman and CEO: I think we absolutely feel like we’re going to see continued strength from our international business next year. But you are right, there are exogenous factors that do weigh in here and certainly the dollar is one of them. But the other piece though is relative economic strength. So how is the economies in Brazil, in Mexico, in Australia, Canada and then the U.K. probably, the U.K. probably we can see some strengthening there. There’s probably more upside there than anywhere else. So what I would say though is we now have really established a good flow right and good inbound traffic from a number of different countries, where maybe 10 years ago, we were more focused on the U.K. almost alone, now we’re really seeing it across numerous countries in Europe and then around the world. So we actually feel like our international business is much more balanced today than it was before, and we have continued opportunities to drive more visitation. So I mean, I think we are absolutely expecting more strength, of course yes, it’s certainly some of these exogenous factors will weigh on that.

Steven Wieczynski – Stifel Nicolaus: In terms of the summer programs, I guess when you look at what you guys are expecting to eventually spend on your assets in Colorado, is it going to be fairly kind of across the board in terms of the assets there in terms of where you spend most of your capital?

Robert A. Katz – Chairman and CEO: What I would say is I think of the seven resorts that we have, I think certain of the resorts have a tremendous amount of kind of secular tourism flow. That just comes through the resorts regardless and obviously for the most part it’s the resorts that have more significant talent that they are based by Breckenridge and Vail and Heavenly. So I think there is no question when we look at our plans for summer we are going to try and leverage that existing visitation. And so you will probably see a more intense focus or more expansive plan for the ones that we feel like people are kind of out already in much greater numbers. With that said we do think that there is an opportunity in each of our resorts that actually put new summer amenities and that each of them will be terrific ROI projects with very, very high flow through. But I think Breck, Vail and Heavenly would be just because of their existing demand I think that people that goes through are ready. Those will be getting more focus and attention.