In its most recent quarterly earnings report, Vail Resorts unveiled plans to invest approximately $175 million to $180 million in capital improvements across its portfolio of 18 mountain resorts ahead of the 2019-20 winter season, and 2019 season in Australia. Projects include ambitious snowmaking upgrades, new lifts, and new mobile technology allowing direct-to-lift access for day ticket purchasers, among others.
Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said, “Among the most important technology investments we are making is our plan to increase lift ticket express fulfillment capacity by 40 percent through new mobile technology across our 17 North American resorts to allow skiers and snowboarders who purchased tickets in advance to bypass the ticket window entirely.” Guests will go directly to designated lines at base area chairlifts, where they will get their lift access media from mobile ticket agents and head right into the lift line. In addition, season passholders will be able to pre-purchase Buddy and Ski With A Friend tickets online and redeem them at the lift.
In Colorado, the company is seeking U.S. Forest Service approval for major snowmaking upgrades at Vail Mountain, Keystone, and Beaver Creek. Proposed upgrades at Vail Mountain include expanding the snowmaking capacity by improving the mountain’s pumping infrastructure and adding 387 high efficiency snowmaking guns on 152 acres of new/enhanced snowmaking terrain, with hopes of allowing the resort to open up to a week earlier than normal.
At Beaver Creek, expanded snowmaking at the Red Buffalo Park beginner area would help get that terrain open earlier and allow for top-to-bottom terrain starting opening day. The Beaver Creek Children’s Ski School will be completely renovated to improve the experience for the entire family.
Plans at Keystone include switching to a fully-automated snowmaking system that Katz expects will “allow the resort to make more snow during early-season snowmaking windows, bringing forward Keystone’s opening day by up to three weeks each year, enabling Keystone to be positioned to be the first resort to open in the United States each season and with the most skiable terrain.”
Breckenridge will get new slopeside guest-service facilities added at its Peak 8 base in more than 22,000-square-feet of space, including a new children’s ski and snowboard school and childcare facilities, ticket and pass office, and a new ski and snowboard rental concept. The only summer investment included in the 2019 calendar is happening at Breck, with approximately $2 million being spent to complete work on a major zip line at the resort.
On-mountain dining spots at Park City, Okemo, Vt., and Stevens Pass, Wash., will all undergo major upgrades. Plans at Stevens Pass include replacing and upgrading the Daisy and Brooks lifts, which serve beginner and intermediate terrain. VR plans to spend $7 million of its planned two-year, $35 million investment across its four newest resorts—Okemo, Mount Sunapee, N.H., Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Colo., and Stevens Pass. At Perisher in Australia, the 2019 season will welcome a new fixed-grip quad that is replacing a t-bar and “significant snowmaking investment that will support terrain connections and improve the consistency of conditions for beginner and intermediate skiers.”