- The Company will invest CAD$66 million (USD$52 million) at Whistler Blackcomb, including new gondola-to-gondola-to-gondola connection
- This historic investment accelerates the Renaissance plan’s mountain improvements, with a focus on the heart of the resort, and defers consideration of new water park
Vail Resorts, Inc. (NYSE: MTN) today announced that the Company plans to make a historic investment of CAD$66 million (USD$52 million) at Whistler Blackcomb this season focusing on three new lifts at the heart of the resort. This transformative investment features the addition of a new gondola on the Blackcomb side of the mountain, as well as several other lift infrastructure upgrades, providing quicker, easier access to all levels of terrain. The plan also represents the largest single-year capital investment program in the resort’s history, and the Company’s decision to accelerate the mountain improvements included in the Renaissance plan, while deferring consideration of the new water park.
A new 10-passenger gondola will replace the Wizard and Solar chairlifts and ascend from the base to the top of Blackcomb Mountain, terminating adjacent to the existing PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, which transports guests to and from Blackcomb and Whistler. Upon completion, the new gondola will offer guests a more comfortable and weather-protected experience in the first three-gondola connection in the world, enhancing the longest continuous lift system. The new gondola is expected to represent a 47-percent capacity increase and move 4,000 people per hour, the highest capacity in North America.
In addition to the new gondola, the capital plan also includes lift upgrades in Whistler Blackcomb’s Family Ski Zone, an upper-mountain area renowned for intermediate trails tailored to families. The Family Ski Zone’s Emerald Express four-passenger lift will be replaced with a new six-passenger high-speed lift, increasing guest uphill capacity by 29 percent and maximizing time on the snow for families on the mountain’s premier intermediate learning terrain.
Finally, the existing Catskinner triple-passenger lift will be replaced with a four-passenger, high-speed lift, which will increase uphill capacity by 56 percent and allow Whistler Blackcomb guests to enjoy faster, more convenient access to Blackcomb Mountain’s beginner and intermediate terrain.
“We are incredibly excited to bring to life the spirit of the Whistler Blackcomb Renaissance with a focus on the on-mountain experience that lies at the heart of our resort,” said Pete Sonntag, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Whistler Blackcomb. “Over the past few years, Whistler Blackcomb has seen tremendous enthusiasm from guests from around the world. This transformative investment, the largest in the resort’s history, will offer a dramatic improvement to the experience for all of our guests as they explore and enjoy the largest and most popular resort in North America. We intend to continue to pursue other base area and village improvements that were part of the Renaissance, but we believed it was critical to start at our core, on the mountain.”
This historic investment also includes the expansion of Whistler Blackcomb’s summer season offering and world-renowned mountain bike park. The mountain bike park is currently in the middle of a two-phase upgrade that will add 21 kilometres (13 miles) of biking trails in the summer of 2018, representing the single largest new terrain opening in the history of the park.
With these new lifts and mountain bike park expansion, Whistler Blackcomb is well positioned as North America’s premier all-season resort. These capital projects are subject to regulatory approval.
About Vail Resorts, Inc. (NYSE: MTN)
Vail Resorts, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is the leading global mountain resort operator. Vail Resorts’ subsidiaries operate 11 world-class mountain resorts and three urban ski areas, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado; Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada; Perisher in Australia; Stowe in Vermont; Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin; Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan. Vail Resorts owns and/or manages a collection of casually elegant hotels under the RockResorts brand, as well as the Grand Teton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Vail Resorts Development Company is the real estate planning and development subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc. Vail Resorts is a publicly held company traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: MTN). The Vail Resorts company website is www.vailresorts.com and consumer website is www.snow.com.
Certain statements discussed in this press release, other than statements of historical information, are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws, including our expected investments at Whistler Blackcomb. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date hereof. All forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Such risks and uncertainties include but are not limited to prolonged weakness in general economic conditions, including adverse effects on the overall travel and leisure related industries; unfavorable weather conditions or the impact of natural disasters; willingness of our guests to travel due to terrorism, the uncertainty of military conflicts or outbreaks of contagious diseases, the cost and availability of travel options and changing consumer preferences; the seasonality of our business combined with adverse events that occur during our peak operating periods; competition in our mountain and lodging businesses; high fixed cost structure of our business; our ability to fund resort capital expenditures; our reliance on government permits or approvals for our use of public land or to make operational and capital improvements; risks related to a disruption in our water supply that would impact our snowmaking capabilities and operations; Risks related to federal, state, local and foreign government laws, rules and regulations; risks related to our reliance on information technology, including our failure to maintain the integrity of our customer or employee data; our ability to hire and retain a sufficient seasonal workforce; risks related to our workforce, including increased labor costs; loss of key personnel; adverse consequences of current or future legal claims; a deterioration in the quality or reputation of our brands, including our ability to protect our intellectual property and the risk of accidents at our mountain resorts; our ability to successfully integrate acquired businesses or that acquired businesses may fail to perform in accordance with expectations, including Whistler Blackcomb and Stowe or future acquisitions; our ability to satisfy the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, with respect to acquired businesses; risks associated with international operations; fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates, particularly the Canadian dollar and Australian dollar; changes in accounting estimates and judgments, accounting principles, policies or guidelines or adverse determinations by taxing authorities; a materially adverse change in our financial condition; and other risks detailed in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the “Risk Factors” section of the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended July 31, 2017, which was filed on September 28, 2017. All forward-looking statements attributable to us or any persons acting on our behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by these cautionary statements. All guidance and forward-looking statements in this press release are made as of the date hereof and we do not undertake any obligation to update any forecast or forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required by law.
A new six-person chairlift, like the Harmony 6 chair seen here, will replace the popular Emerald quad chair in Whistler Mountain’s Family Zone. Photo Credit: Paul Morrison