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Vail Resorts to Debut Seven New Lifts in 2021

Despite a 44 percent decline in earnings, Vail Resorts plans to invest in new lifts across five mountains in 2021.  The seven projects at Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone and Okemo were initially planned for 2020 but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts and creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests,” noted CEO Rob Katz. “We plan to maintain a disciplined approach to capital investments, keeping our core capital at reduced levels given the continued uncertainty due to COVID-19.” The company will announce its complete capital plan for calendar year 2021 in March.

At Beaver Creek, a new Doppelmayr detachable quad will service the high alpine McCoy Park learning zone.  “This new lift accessed beginner and intermediate bowl experience is a rare opportunity to expand with highly accessible terrain in one of the most idyllic settings in Colorado and will further differentiate the high-end, family focused experience at Beaver Creek,” said the company. A second quad chair will provide egress to the top of the Strawberry Park and Upper Beaver Creek Mountain Express lifts.

The Peru Express, dating to 1990, will be replaced with a higher capacity lift.

At Keystone, Leitner-Poma will replace the Peru Express with a six pack.  The new machine will increase out-of-base capacity and improve circulation.  Also in Summit County, a new detachable quad on Breckenridge’s Peak 7 will enhance uphill capacity near the Independence SuperChair.  “This additional lift will further enhance the guest experience at the most visited resort in the U.S. and will significantly increase guest access and circulation for the intermediate terrain on Peaks 6 and 7,” said Vail.

Crested Butte plans to replace the two-person Peachtree chairlift with a Skytrac triple servicing beginner terrain at the base of the resort. Grading around the new lift will create a more consistent experience for beginner and ski school guests.

Okemo Mountain Resort will complete two transformational projects first announced last year.  Quantum Four will be swapped for a detachable Leitner-Poma six place lift.  The existing equipment, originally installed in 2002 and upgraded with bubble chairs in 2015, will move to replace the Green Ridge triple.  Green Ridge is currently the only non-Poma lift at Okemo.

Overall capital spending in 2021 is expected to total $125 to $130 million, about 40 percent less than what was initially planned for 2020. The largest non-lift project announced last year, an expansion of the Rendezvous Lodge at Blackcomb, was not mentioned in today’s release. “Since the start of COVID-19, disciplined cost management has been a primary focus, with significant actions taken to date to tightly manage our costs with reduced revenue expectations,” said Vail.  “We have implemented operating plans that actively manage our expenses, while maintaining a high-quality experience for our guests.”
Vail reported a net loss of $153.8 million for the 2021 fiscal first quarter compared with a loss of $106.5 million a year ago. Season pass sales through December 6th, 2020 increased approximately 20 percent in units but were flat in sales dollars compared to the prior year (the company expects to have a total of more than 1.4 million passholders this year!)  Vail continues to maintain significant liquidity with $614 million of cash on hand as of November 30th and $587 million available under revolving credit facilities.

Article by Peter Landsman

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