Vail Resorts 10-K 2008
Documents found in this filing:
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
x ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended July 31, 2008
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
Commission File Number: 001-09614
Vail Resorts, Inc.
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. x Yes No
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes x No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports) and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
x Yes No
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant's knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendments to this Form 10-K. x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer x Accelerated filer ¨
Non-accelerated filer ¨ (Do not check if a smaller reporting company) Smaller reporting company ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).
Yes x No
The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant, based on the closing price of $47.12 per share as reported on the New York Stock Exchange Composite Tape on January 31, 2008 (the last business day of the Registrant's most recently completed second quarter) was $1,465,211,620.
As of September 22, 2008, 36,921,791 shares of Common Stock were outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
The Proxy Statement for the Annual Meeting of Shareholders is incorporated by reference herein into Part III, Items 10 through 14.
Except for any historical information contained herein, the matters discussed in this Annual Report on Form 10-K (this “Form 10-K”) contain certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements relate to analyses and other information, which are based on forecasts of future results and estimates of amounts not yet determinable. These statements also relate to our future prospects, developments and business strategies.
These forward-looking statements are identified by their use of terms and phrases such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “plan,” “predict,” “project,” “will” and similar terms and phrases, including references to assumptions. Although we believe that our plans, intentions and expectations reflected in or suggested by such forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot assure you that such plans, intentions or expectations will be achieved. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from our forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to:
All forward-looking statements attributable to us or any persons acting on our behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by these cautionary statements.
If one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or if underlying assumptions prove incorrect, our actual results may vary materially from those expected, estimated or projected. Given these uncertainties, users of the information included in this Form 10-K, including investors and prospective investors, are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements. Actual results may differ materially from those suggested by the forward-looking statements that the Company makes for a number of reasons including those described in Part I, Item 1A, “Risk Factors” of this Form 10-K. All forward-looking statements are made only as of the date hereof. Except as may be required by law, the Company does not intend to update these forward-looking statements, even if new information, future events or other circumstances have made them incorrect or misleading.
Vail Resorts, Inc. was organized as a public holding company in 1997 and operates through various subsidiaries (collectively, the “Company”). The Company's operations are grouped into three business segments: Mountain, Lodging and Real Estate, which represented approximately 59%, 15% and 26%, respectively, of the Company's net revenue for the year ended July 31, 2008. The Company's Mountain segment owns and operates five world-class ski resort properties as well as ancillary businesses, primarily including ski school, dining and retail/rental operations, which provide a comprehensive resort experience to a diverse clientele with an attractive demographic profile. The Company's Lodging segment owns and/or manages a collection of luxury hotels under its RockResorts International, LLC (“RockResorts”) brand, strategic lodging properties and a large number of condominiums located in proximity to the Company's ski resorts, the Grand Teton Lodge Company (“GTLC”), which operates three destination resorts at Grand Teton National Park (the “Park”), and golf courses. Collectively, the Mountain and Lodging segments are considered the Resort segment. The Company's Real Estate segment owns and develops real estate in and around the Company's resort communities. Financial information by segment is presented in Note 14, Segment Information, of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this Form 10-K.
Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone, all located in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and Heavenly, located in the Lake Tahoe area of California/Nevada, are year-round mountain resorts. Each offers a full complement of recreational activities, including skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, sight-seeing, mountain biking, guided hiking, children’s activities and other recreational activities.
The Company's Mountain segment derives revenue primarily through the sale of lift tickets and season passes as well as a comprehensive offering of amenities available to guests, including ski and snowboard lessons, equipment rentals and retail merchandise sales, a variety of dining venues, private club operations and other recreational activities. In addition to providing extensive guest amenities, the Company also engages, among other activities, in the leasing out of the Company’s owned commercial space around its base resorts for restaurants and retail stores.
There are approximately 770 ski areas in North America and approximately 480 in the United States, ranging from small ski area operations that service day skiers to large resorts that attract both day skiers and destination resort guests looking for a comprehensive vacation experience. One of the primary ski industry statistics for measuring performance is “skier visit,” which represents a person utilizing a ticket or pass to access a mountain resort for any part of one day, and includes both paid and complimentary access. During the 2007/2008 ski season, combined skier visits for all the United States ski areas were approximately 60.5 million and all North American skier visits were approximately 81.2 million. The Company's ski resorts had 6.2 million skier visits during the 2007/2008 ski season, or approximately 10.2% of United States skier visits, and an approximate 7.6% share of the North American market's skier visits.
The Company's Colorado ski resorts appeal to both day skiers and destination guests due to the resorts' proximity to Colorado's Front Range (Denver/Colorado Springs/Boulder metropolitan areas), accessibility from several airports, including Denver International Airport and Eagle County Airport, and the wide range of amenities available at each resort. Colorado has 26 ski areas, six of which are classified as “Front Range Destination Resorts,” including all of the Company's Colorado resorts, catering to both the Front Range and destination-skier markets. All Colorado ski resorts combined recorded approximately 12.5 million skier visits for the 2007/2008 ski season with skier visits at the Company's Colorado ski resorts totaling 5.2 million, or approximately 41.9% of all Colorado skier visits for the 2007/2008 ski season.
Lake Tahoe, which straddles the border of California and Nevada, is a major skiing destination less than 100 miles from Sacramento and Reno and approximately 200 miles from San Francisco, making it a convenient destination for both day skiers and destination guests. South Lake Tahoe, where Heavenly is located, is also a popular year-round vacation destination, featuring extensive summer attractions and casinos in addition to its winter sports offerings. Heavenly is proximate to both the Reno/Tahoe International Airport and the Sacramento International Airport. California and Nevada have 24 ski areas. Heavenly had 948,000 skier visits for the 2007/2008 ski season, capturing approximately 13.1% of California's and Nevada's 7.2 million total skier visits for the 2007/2008 ski season.
There are significant barriers to entry for new ski areas due to the limited private lands on which ski areas could be built, the difficulty in getting the appropriate governmental approvals to build on public lands and the significant capital needed to construct the necessary infrastructure. As such, there has been virtually no new supply of major resorts in North America for the past 25 years which has and should continue to allow the best positioned resorts, including all of the Company’s resorts, to capture a majority of future industry growth. The Company’s resorts compete with other major ski resorts, including Aspen/Snowmass, Copper Mountain, Deer Valley, Mammoth Mountain, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Park City Mountain Resort, Squaw Valley USA, Steamboat, Whistler Blackcomb and Winter Park, as well as other ski areas in Colorado and the Lake Tahoe area, other destination ski areas worldwide and non-ski related vacation destinations.
While the ski industry has performed well in recent years in terms of number of skier visits, with the seven best seasons occurring in the past eight years for United States visitation, including a record year this past ski season, a particular ski area's growth is also largely dependent on either attracting skiers away from other resorts or generating more revenue per skier visit. Better capitalized ski resorts, including all five mountain resorts operated by the Company, are expanding their offerings, as well as enhancing the quality and experience by adding new high speed chairlifts, gondolas, terrain parks, state of the art grooming machines, expanded terrain and amenities at the base areas of the resorts all of which are aimed at increasing customer visitation and revenue per skier visit. The Company believes it invests more in capital improvements than the vast majority of its competitors and can also create synergies by operating multiple resorts thus enhancing the Company’s profitability. All five of the Company’s resorts typically rank in the top ten most visited ski resorts in the United States. Additionally, all of the Company's resorts consistently rank in the top 20 ranked ski resorts in North America according to industry surveys, which the Company attributes to its resorts' ability to provide a high-quality experience.
The ski industry statistics stated in this section have been derived from data published by Colorado Ski Country USA, Canadian Ski Council, Kottke National End of Season Survey 2007/2008 (the “Kottke Survey”) and other industry publications.
All of the Company's ski resorts maintain the unique distinction of competing effectively as both market share leaders and quality leaders. The following inherent and strategic factors contribute directly to each resort’s success:
The Company's resorts are located in areas that receive significantly higher than average snowfall compared to most other ski resort locations in the United States. The Company’s resorts in the Colorado Rocky Mountains receive average yearly snowfall between 20 and 30 feet and Heavenly, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, receives average yearly snowfall of approximately 23 feet. Even in these abundant snowfall areas, the Company has significant snowmaking systems that can help provide a more consistent experience. Additionally, the Company meticulously maintains its slopes with extensive fleets of snow grooming equipment.
The Company's resorts are committed to leading the industry in terrain park design, education and events for the growing segment of freestyle skiers and snowboarders. Each resort has multiple terrain parks that include progressively-challenging features. This park structure, coupled with new freestyle ski school programs, promotes systematic learning from basic to professional skills.
The Company systematically upgrades its lifts to streamline skier traffic and maximize guest experience. In the past three fiscal years, the Company has installed several high-speed chairlifts or gondolas across its resorts, including a four-passenger high-speed chairlift and an eight-passenger gondola at Breckenridge with two mid-station features; a four-passenger high-speed chairlift and an eight-passenger gondola at Beaver Creek; two four-passenger high-speed chairlifts at Vail Mountain; and a four-passenger high-speed chairlift at Heavenly. New for the 2008/2009 ski season, the Company is replacing an existing gondola with an eight-passenger gondola at Keystone including a mid-station feature.
The Company’s mission is to provide quality service at every level of the guest experience. Prior to arrival, guests can receive personal assistance through the Company’s full-service, in-house travel center in booking desired lodging accommodations, lift tickets, ski school lessons, equipment rentals and air and ground travel. On-mountain ambassadors engage guests and answer questions and all personnel, from lift operators to ski patrol, convey a guest-oriented culture. The Company solicits guest feedback through a variety of surveys and results are utilized to ensure high levels of customer satisfaction to understand trends and develop future resort programs and amenities.
The Company’s resorts are home to some of the finest and most recognized ski and snowboard schools in the industry. Through a combination of outstanding training and abundant work opportunities, the schools have become home to many of the most experienced and credentialed professionals in the business. The Company complements its instructor staff with state-of-the-art facilities and expertly prepared learning terrain, all with a keen attention to guest needs, including offering a wide variety of adult and child group and private lesson options with a goal of creating lifelong skiers and riders.
The Company is a ski industry leader in providing comprehensive destination vacation experiences, including on-mountain activities designed to appeal to a broad range of interests. In addition to the Company’s exceptional ski experiences, guests can choose from a variety of non-ski related activities including snow tubing, snow shoeing, guided snowmobile and scenic cat tours, horse-drawn sleigh rides and a year-round zip line in addition to high altitude dining. During the summer, on-mountain recreational activities provide guests with a wide array of options included scenic chairlift and gondola rides, mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking.
The Company’s resorts provide a variety of quality on-mountain and base village dining venues, ranging from top-rated fine dining restaurants to trailside express food service outlets. The Company operates over 90 of such dining options at its five mountain resorts. Furthermore, the Company is committed to serving healthy food options to its guests at these dining venues through the Company’s “Appetite for Life” program. Under this program, the Company became the largest restaurant operator in North America to exclusively serve natural meats and organic dairy products at all of its on-mountain restaurants.
The Company, through SSI Venture, LLC (“SSV”), has over 140 retail/rental locations specializing in sporting goods including ski, snowboard, golf and cycling equipment. In addition to providing a major retail/rental presence at each of the Company's ski resorts, the Company also has retail/rental locations throughout the Colorado Front Range and at other Colorado, California and Utah ski resorts, as well as the San Francisco Bay Area and Salt Lake City. Many of the locations in the Front Range and in the San Francisco Bay Area also offer a prime venue for selling the Company’s season pass products.
Quality lodging options are an integral part of providing a complete resort experience. The Company’s 13 owned and managed hotels proximate to its five mountain resorts, including five RockResorts branded hotels, and an inventory of approximately 1,500 managed condominium rooms provide numerous accommodation options for the Company’s mountain resort guests. The Company’s real estate development efforts provide the Company with the ability to add profitability to the Company while expanding the destination bed base and upgrading its resorts through the development of amenities such as luxury hotels, private clubs, spas, parking and commercial space for restaurants and retail shops. The Company’s Lodging and Real Estate segments have and continue to invest in resort related assets as part of their initiatives which enhance the overall resort experience. Examples include: the new The Arrabelle at Vail Square hotel (“The Arrabelle Hotel”), a RockResort property in Vail which opened in the 2007/2008 ski season; the major renovation of The Osprey at Beaver Creek (formerly the Inn at Beaver Creek), a RockResort property to open in the 2008/2009 ski season; a new spa, guest rooms and renovated ballroom and meeting spaces at The Lodge at Vail for the 2008/2009 ski season; a new spa at The Keystone Lodge opened for the 2007/2008 ski season; the Crystal Peak Lodge in Breckenridge to be open for the 2008/2009 ski season; and the Vail Mountain Club, a private mountain club to be open for the 2008/2009 ski season.
As part of the Company’s long-standing commitment to responsible stewardship of its natural mountain settings, the Company has several initiatives in environmental sustainability which transcend throughout all of the Company’s operations. For example, it has chosen to offset approximately 100% of its electrical usage by purchasing 152,000 megawatt-hours of wind energy credits annually for its five mountain resorts, its lodging properties including RockResorts, its retail/rental locations and its corporate headquarters in Broomfield, Colorado. The Company’s headquarters is LEED-certified and the Company’s planned Ever Vail project would be the largest LEED-certified project for resort use in North America. Additionally, the Company is partnering with the National Forest Foundation to raise funds for various conservation projects in the White River National Forest in Colorado and the National Forest of Tahoe Basin in California/Nevada where the Company operates its five mountain resorts. As a result of these efforts, the Company was honored by Conde Nast Traveler as a leader in social responsibility in the travel industry as a winner of the magazine’s 2008 World Savers Awards in the category of environmental protection.
The Company’s ski resorts are well located and easily accessible by both destination and in-state visitors.
The Colorado Front Range market, with a population of approximately 3.8 million, and growing faster than the national average, is within approximately 100 miles from each of the Company's Colorado resorts, with access via a major interstate highway. Additionally, the Company's Colorado resorts are proximate to both Denver International Airport and Eagle County Airport.
Heavenly is proximate to two large California population centers, the Sacramento/Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. Heavenly is within 100 miles of Sacramento/Central Valley and approximately 200 miles from the San Francisco Bay area via major interstate highways. Heavenly is serviced by the Reno/Tahoe International Airport, Sacramento International Airport and the San Francisco International Airport.
These markets provide the Company with excellent opportunities to market its season pass products which provided approximately 26% of the Company’s total lift ticket revenue for the 2007/2008 ski season. The Company believes this percentage should increase in future ski seasons due to the introduction of a new season pass product, the Epic Season Pass, targeted at destination guests and available to all guests.
The Company promotes its resorts through extensive marketing and sales programs, which include print media advertising in lifestyle and industry publications, direct marketing to a targeted audience, promotional programs, loyalty programs that reward frequent guests and sales and marketing directed at attracting groups, corporate meetings and convention business. Additionally, the Company markets directly to many of its guests through its websites and internet presence, which provide visitors with information regarding each of the Company's resorts, including services and amenities, reservations information and virtual tours (nothing contained on the websites shall be deemed incorporated herein). The Company also enters into strategic sponsorships with selected “name brand” companies to increase its market exposure and create opportunities for cross-marketing.
Ski resort operations are highly seasonal in nature, with a typical ski season beginning in mid-November and running through mid-April. In an effort to partially counterbalance the concentration of revenue in the winter months, the Company offers non-ski season attractions such as sight-seeing, mountain biking, guided hiking, children’s activities and other recreational activities such as golf (included in the operations of the Lodging segment). These activities also help attract destination conference and group business to the Company's resorts.
The Lodging segment currently includes approximately 3,800 owned and managed hotel and condominium rooms. The Company's resort hotels collectively offer a wide range of services to guests.
The Company's portfolio of owned or managed luxury resort hotels and other hotels and resorts currently includes:
Created by Laurance S. Rockefeller in 1956, the portfolio of RockResorts properties was purchased by the Company in December 2001. The RockResorts collection includes luxury hotels influenced by a strong connection to the natural surrounding environment and feature award-winning dining, and state-of-the-art RockResorts Spas and fitness centers. The properties incorporate the indigenous environment into the guest experience and feature access to a variety of year-round outdoor activities ranging from skiing to golf.
The Company’s lodging strategy, through RockResorts, is focused on the resort hotel niche within the luxury segment and competes for boutique full-service hotel management contracts with other hotel management companies, including Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, the KOR group and Auberge Resorts.
The Company's lodging strategy seeks to complement and enhance its mountain resort operations through the ownership or management of lodging properties in proximity to its mountain resorts and management of luxury resorts in premier destination locations. Additionally, the Company continues to pursue new management contracts, which may include, in addition to management fees, marketing license fees and technical service fees in conjunction with a project’s design, development and sales.
In December 2007, the Company opened The Arrabelle Hotel, which is just steps from Vail’s Eagle Bahn gondola. The hotel reflects the ambiance of the European Alps and features 36 lavish guest rooms and approximately 50 additional condominium lock-off units, a state-of-the-art RockResorts spa and fitness center and fine dining. During the year, RockResorts also added The Landings St. Lucia, in St. Lucia, West Indies to its portfolio of managed luxury hotels. Additionally, current properties under development as RockResorts owned or managed resorts include: Tempo Miami, Miami, Florida; One Ski Hill Place, Breckenridge; Rum Cay Resort Marina, Bahamas and the Third Turtle Club & Spa, Turks & Caicos.
Hotels are categorized by Smith Travel Research, a leading lodging industry research firm, as luxury, upper upscale, upscale, mid-price and economy. The service quality and level of accommodations of the RockResorts’ hotels place them in the luxury category, which represents hotels achieving the highest average daily rates (“ADR”) in the industry, and includes such brands as the Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Starwood's Luxury Collection hotels. The Company’s other hotels are categorized in the upper upscale and upscale segments of the hotel market. The luxury and upper upscale segments consist of approximately 853,000 rooms at approximately 3,020 properties in the United States as of July 2008. For the year ended July 31, 2008, the Company's owned hotels, which includes a combination of certain RockResorts, as well as other hotels in proximity to the Company’s ski resorts, had an overall ADR of $184.42, a paid occupancy rate of 64.5% and revenue per available room (“RevPAR”) of $118.97, as compared to the upper upscale segment’s ADR of $166.79, a paid occupancy rate of 69.6% and RevPAR of $116.16. The Company believes that this comparison to the upper upscale category is appropriate as its mix of owned hotels include those in the luxury and upper upscale categories, as well as certain of its hotels that fall in the upscale category. The highly seasonal nature of the Company's lodging properties results in lower average occupancy as compared to the general lodging industry.
Competition in the hotel industry is generally based on quality and consistency of rooms, restaurant and meeting facilities and services, attractiveness of locations, availability of a global distribution system, price and other factors. The Company's properties compete within their geographic markets with hotels and resorts that include locally owned independent hotels, as well as facilities owned or managed by national and international chains, including such brands as Four Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Starwood's Luxury Collection and Westin. The Company's properties also compete for convention and conference business across the national market. The Company believes it is highly competitive in the resort hotel niche for the following reasons:
The Company also owns GTLC, which is based in the Jackson Hole area in Wyoming and operates within the Grand Teton National Park under a 15 year concessionaire agreement (that expires December 31, 2021) with the National Park Service (“NPS”). GTLC also owns JHG&TC, which is located outside of the Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyoming. GTLC's operations within the Grand Teton National Park and JHG&TC have operating seasons that generally run from mid-May to mid-October.
There are 390 areas within the National Park System covering approximately 85 million acres across the United States and its territories. Of the 390 areas, 58 are classified as National Parks. While there are more than 500 NPS concessionaires, ranging from small privately-held businesses to large corporate conglomerates, the Company primarily competes with such companies as Aramark Parks & Resorts, Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, Forever Resorts and Xanterra Parks & Resorts in retaining and obtaining National Park Concessionaire agreements. The NPS uses “recreation visits” to measure visitation within the National Park System. In calendar 2007, areas designated as National Parks received approximately 62.3 million recreation visits. The Grand Teton National Park, which spans approximately 310,000 acres, had 2.6 million recreation visits during calendar 2007, or approximately 4% of total National Park recreation visits. Four concessionaires provide accommodations within the Grand Teton National Park, including GTLC. GTLC offers three lodging options within the Grand Teton National Park: Jackson Lake Lodge, a full-service, 385-room resort with conference facilities which can accommodate up to 700 people; the Jenny Lake Lodge, a small, rustically elegant retreat with 37 cabins; and Colter Bay Village, a facility with 166 log cabins, 66 tent cabins, 350 campsites and a 112-space RV park. GTLC offers dining options as extensive as its lodging options, with cafeterias, casual eateries and fine dining establishments. GTLC's resorts provide a wide range of activities for guests to enjoy, including cruises on Jackson Lake, boat rentals, horseback riding, guided fishing, float trips, golf and guided Grand Teton National Park tours. Because of the extensive amenities offered as well as the tremendous popularity of the National Park System, GTLC's accommodations within the Grand Teton National Park operate near full capacity during their operating season.
The Company promotes its luxury and resort hotels and seeks to maximize lodging revenue by using its marketing network established at the Company's ski resorts. This network includes local, national and international travel relationships which provide the Company's central reservation systems with a significant volume of transient customers. Additionally, the individual hotels and the Company have active sales forces to generate conference and group business.
The Company's lodging business is highly seasonal in nature, with peak seasons primarily in the winter months (with the exception of GTLC, certain managed properties and golf operations). In recent years, the Company has grown its business by promoting its extensive conference facilities and offering more off-season activities to help offset the seasonality of the Company's lodging business. The Company owns and operates six golf courses: The Beaver Creek Golf Club, The Keystone Ranch Golf Course, The River Course at Keystone, JHG&TC and the Tom Fazio and Greg Norman courses at Red Sky Ranch near the Beaver Creek Resort. JHG&TC was ranked the third best course in Wyoming for 2007 by Golf Digest, the Tom Fazio course was ranked the second best course in Colorado in the State by State ranking for 2008 by Golfweek and ranked the eighth best course in Colorado for 2007 by Golf Digest, and the Greg Norman course was ranked the third best course in Colorado in the State by State ranking for 2008 by Golfweek and ranked the seventh best course in Colorado for 2007 by Golf Digest and 24th in the United States in the 2008 “Top 100 You Can Play” by Golf Magazine. Red Sky Ranch was ranked one of America’s Top 100 Golf Communities in 2008 by Travel & Leisure Golf.
The Company has extensive holdings of real property at its resorts throughout Summit and Eagle Counties in Colorado. The Company's real estate operations, through Vail Resorts Development Company (“VRDC”), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company, include the planning, oversight, infrastructure improvement, development, marketing and sale of the Company's real property holdings. In addition to the substantial cash flow generated from real estate development sales, these development activities benefit the Company's mountain and lodging operations through (i) the creation of additional resort lodging and other resort related facilities and venues (primarily restaurants, spas, commercial space, private mountain clubs, skier services facilities and parking structures) which provide the Company with the opportunity to create new sources of recurring revenue, enhance the guest experience at the resort and expand the destination bed base; (ii) the ability to control the architectural themes of the Company's resorts; and (iii) the expansion of the Company's property management and commercial leasing operations. Additionally, in order to facilitate the sale of real estate development projects, these projects often include the construction of resort assets benefiting the development, such as chairlifts, gondolas, ski trails or golf courses. While these improvements enhance the value of the real estate held for sale (for example, by providing ski-in/ski-out accessibility), they also benefit mountain and lodging operations.
The Company in recent years has primarily focused on projects that involve significant vertical development. In addition to the substantially completed The Arrabelle at Vail Square project, current vertical development projects under construction include: Vail’s Front Door, Crystal Peak Lodge at Breckenridge, One Ski Hill Place at Breckenridge and The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Vail. The Company attempts to mitigate the risk of vertical development by utilizing guaranteed maximum price contracts (although certain construction costs may not be covered by contractual limitations), pre-selling all or a portion of the project, which generally requires significant non-refundable deposits, and obtaining non-recourse financing for certain projects. In some instances as warranted by the Company’s business model, VRDC attempts to minimize the Company's exposure to development risks and maximize the long-term value of the Company's real property holdings by selling improved and entitled land to third-party developers while retaining the right to approve the development plans, as well as an interest in the developer's profit. The Company also typically retains the option to purchase, at cost, any retail/commercial space created in a development. The Company is able to secure these benefits from third-party developers because of the high property values and strong demand associated with property in close proximity to the Company's mountain resorts.
VRDC's principal activities include (i) the vertical development of certain residential mixed-use projects that consist of both the sales of real estate units to third parties and the construction of resort depreciable assets such as hotels, restaurants, spas, private clubs, commercial space, skier service facilities, parking structures and other amenities that the Company will own and operate and that will benefit the Company’s mountain and lodging operations; (ii) the sale of single-family homesites to individual purchasers; (iii) the sale of certain land parcels to third-party developers for condominium, townhome, cluster home, single family home, lodge and mixed use developments; (iv) the zoning, planning and marketing of resort communities; (v) arranging for the construction of the necessary roads, utilities and resort infrastructure for new resort communities; and (vi) the purchase of selected strategic land parcels for future development.
Additionally, VRDC is currently in the planning and approval stages for numerous projects at all five of its mountain resorts, including the Ever Vail project in Vail and One River Run proximate to the new gondola in Keystone.
The Company, through certain operating subsidiaries, currently employs approximately 3,500 year-round and 11,600 seasonal employees. In addition, the Company manages approximately 800 year-round and 200 seasonal employees on behalf of the owners of the managed hotel properties. None of the Company's employees are unionized. The Company considers employee relations to be good.
The 1986 Ski Area Permit Act (the “1986 Act”) allows the USDA Forest Service (the “Forest Service”) to grant Term Special Use Permits (each, an “SUP”) for the operation of ski areas and construction of related facilities on National Forest lands. In addition, the 1986 Act requires a Master Development Plan for each ski area that is granted an SUP. Each of the Company’s five ski resorts operate under an SUP.
Each distinct area of National Forest lands is required by the National Forest Management Plan to develop and maintain a Land and Resource Management Plan (a “Forest Plan”), which establishes standards and guidelines for the Forest Service to follow and consider in reviewing and approving proposed actions by the Company.
Under the 1986 Act, the Forest Service has the right to review and approve the location, design and construction of improvements in the permit area and many operational matters. Virtually all of the skiable terrain on Vail Mountain, Breckenridge, Heavenly and Keystone is located on Forest Service land. While Beaver Creek also operates on Forest Service land, a significant portion of the skiable terrain, primarily in the lower main mountain, Western Hillside, Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead Mountain areas, is located on Company-owned land. Heavenly operates on Forest Service land but operates four separate base areas on Company-owned land.
Vail Mountain operates under an SUP for the use of 12,226 acres that expires October 31, 2031. Breckenridge operates under an SUP for the use of 5,702 acres that expires December 31, 2029. Keystone operates under an SUP for the use of 8,376 acres that expires December 31, 2032. Beaver Creek operates under an SUP for the use of 3,849 acres that expires December 31, 2038. Heavenly operates under an SUP for the use of 7,050 acres that expires May 1, 2042.
Each SUP contains a number of requirements, including that the Company indemnify the Forest Service from third-party claims arising out of its operation under the SUP and that it comply with applicable laws, such as those relating to water quality and endangered or threatened species.
For use of the SUPs, the Company pays a fee to the Forest Service ranging from 1.5% to 4.0% of sales for services occurring on Forest Service land. Included in the calculation are sales from, among other things, lift tickets, season passes, ski school lessons, food and beverages, equipment rentals and retail merchandise.
The SUPs may be amended by the Company or by the Forest Service to change the permit area or permitted uses. The Forest Service may amend an SUP if it determines that such amendment is in the public interest to do so. While the Forest Service is required to seek the permit-holders consent to any amendment, an amendment can be finalized over permit-holder objections. Permit amendments must be consistent with the Forest Plan and are subject to the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), both of which are discussed below.
The Forest Service can also terminate a SUP if it determines that termination is required in the public interest. However, to the Company's knowledge, no SUP has ever been terminated by the Forest Service over the opposition of the permitee.
All improvements that the Company proposes to make on National Forest lands under any of its SUPs must be included in a Master Development Plan. Master Development Plans describe the existing and proposed facilities, developments and area of activity within the permit area. Master Development Plans are prepared by the Company and set forth a conceptual overview of all potential projects at each resort. The Master Development Plans are reviewed by the Forest Service for compliance with the Forest Plan and other applicable law and, if found to be compliant, are accepted by the Forest Service. Notwithstanding acceptance by the Forest Service of the conceptual Master Development Plans, individual projects still require separate applications to be submitted evidencing compliance with NEPA and other applicable laws before the Forest Service will approve such projects. The Company updates or amends its Master Development Plans for Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge and Heavenly from time to time.
Operational and development activities on National Forest System lands at the Company's four Colorado ski resorts are subject to the additional regulatory and planning requirements set forth in the April 2002 Record of Decision (“ROD”) for the White River National Forest Land and Resources Management Plan (the “White River Forest Plan”).
When approving Company applications for development, area expansion and other activities on National Forest lands in Colorado, the Forest Service must adhere to the White River Forest Plan and ROD. Any such decision may be subject to judicial review in Federal court if a party, with standing, challenges a Forest Service decision that applies the ROD at one of the Company’s four Colorado ski resorts.
NEPA requires an assessment of the environmental impacts of “major” proposed actions of the Company on National Forest land, such as expansion of a ski area, installation of new lifts or snowmaking facilities, or construction of new trails or buildings. The Company must comply with NEPA when seeking Forest Service approval of such improvements. The Forest Service is responsible for preparing and compiling the required environmental studies, usually through third-party consultants. NEPA allows for two different types of environmental study, depending on the scope and size of the expected impact of the proposed project. An Environmental Assessment (“EA”) is typically used for projects where the environmental impact is expected to be limited. For projects with more significant expected impacts, an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) is more commonly required. An EIS is more detailed and broader in scope than an EA. The Forest Service usually takes more time to compile, review and issue an EIS. Consequently, projects that require an EIS typically take longer to approve.
During the requisite environmental study, the Forest Service is required to analyze alternatives to the proposed action (including not taking the proposed action) as well as impacts that may be unavoidable. Following completion of the requisite environmental study, the Forest Service may decide not to approve the proposed action or may decide to approve an alternative. In either case the Company may be forced to abandon or alter its development or expansion plans.
In limited cases, projects can be subject to a Categorical Exclusion, which allows approval by the Forest Service without preparation of an environmental study required by NEPA. The Forest Service has a list of available Categorical Exclusions, which typically are only available for projects that are not expected to have an environmental impact, such as redevelopment of an existing developed area.
Proposed actions at Heavenly may also be subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), which is similar to NEPA in that it requires that the California governmental entity approving any proposed action on the California portion of Heavenly study potential environmental impacts. Projects with significant expected impacts require an Environmental Impact Report while more limited projects may be approved based on a Mitigated Negative Declaration.
The Company submitted an updated Master Development Plan for Breckenridge, which was accepted by the Forest Service in January 2008. The Master Development Plan was updated to include, among other things, additional skiable area, snowmaking and lift improvements.
In January 2008, the Forest Service commenced public scoping of the Company’s proposal to develop a portion of Peak 6, which adjoins the Breckenridge Ski Area to the north. Approval of the Peak 6 development requires the preparation of an EIS, in compliance with NEPA. The initial round of public scoping has been completed and the Forest Service is preparing the EIS. It is not possible at this time to determine whether the expansion will be approved as proposed.
In August 1999, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission (the “Commission”) adopted “temporary modifications” for certain metals standards applicable to three streams within the Keystone permit area. The Commission has been delegated authority by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to regulate water quality in Colorado. All water quality standards, including “temporary modifications,” are reviewed by the Commission every three years. Under the Keystone SUP, which requires that the Company comply with water quality standards, the Forest Service mandated that the Company conduct ongoing studies of the three streams within the Keystone permit boundary as well as one additional stream. These studies were designed to determine the potential water quality impacts of snowmaking operations as a result of metals contamination from abandoned mines located upstream from Keystone’s snowmaking diversions. Using the data collected through the ongoing monitoring, the Company has completed a use attainability analysis for the Commission. At the Commission review in June 2008, the “temporary modifications” were lifted and new water quality standards were adopted for all four of the streams. The Company expects to meet or exceed the newly adopted standards.
In November 2007, the Forest Service approved the extension and replacement of the River Run Gondola, as contemplated by the Keystone Ski Area Master Development Plan. This approval did not require extensive review under NEPA as it qualified for a Categorical Exclusion. The new gondola is currently being installed and the Company expects it to be operational for the 2008/2009 ski season.
The Company is currently updating the Keystone Ski Area Master Development Plan to include, among other things, ski area expansion, construction of new lifts, trails and snowmaking systems, and construction or redevelopment of skier buildings and other facilities. The Company anticipates the updated Master Development Plan to be completed and submitted to the Forest Service during the fall 2008.
In September 2007, the updated Vail Master Development Plan was accepted by the Forest Service. The Vail Master Development Plan includes, among other things, additional snowmaking on Vail Mountain, additional lifts, and a race facility expansion at Vail's Golden Peak. In October 2007, the Company submitted to the Forest Service the Company’s first proposal under the updated Master Development Plan to install a new chair lift in Vail's Sundown Bowl and to upgrade the existing chair 5 to a high-speed, detachable quad chair lift. NEPA requires that an EIS be prepared in connection with the approval of this proposal. The Company anticipates the final EIS and approval of the projects during the winter 2008.
In June 2005, the Company submitted a proposal to the Forest Service to construct a chairlift to service existing and potential future residential and commercial development in the proposed Ever Vail area. This proposal was approved in March 2006 by the Forest Service and the administrative appeals period for this approval has expired. However, since receiving approval, the Company has modified the plans for the chairlift and will need to seek approval from the Forest Service of the modified plans.
The Company is in the final stages of updating the Beaver Creek Master Development Plan to include, among other things, certain chairlift and snowmaking upgrades and adjustments to visitor capacity parameters in light of prior lift and trail upgrades contemplated in the Master Development Plan. The Company intends to submit the updated Master Development Plan to the Forest Service in fall 2008.
In January 2007, the Forest Service approved an amendment to the Beaver Creek SUP boundary to include additional terrain near the top of chair 16, west of Cabin Fever and east of the Arrowhead Alpine Club Yurt. The Company plans to provide additional terrain for beginners skiing off of chair 16 by the 2008/2009 ski season. No additional Forest Service approvals are required for this project.
The Company has been conducting ongoing monitoring of groundwater contamination levels using three existing monitoring wells and a seasonal, downstream seep as required by the State of California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Lahontan Region (“Lahontan”), and the El Dorado County Department of Environmental Management. This requirement was imposed in response to an accidental release of waste oil at a vehicle maintenance shop in 1998. All cleanup work has been completed in accordance with the approved work plan and a new underground vault, piping and overflow protection system was installed to prevent any further releases. Notwithstanding submission of a final report on March 31, 2003, Lahontan has required additional monitoring and reporting. Monitoring results have been provided to Lahontan but no response has been received to date.
In July 2003, Heavenly received updated waste discharge requirements ("WDRs") relating to storm runoff on the California portions of the resort. WDRs are normally valid for ten years. The approved WDRs will permit Heavenly to continue year round operations and to continue with implementation of the approved Heavenly Ski Area Master Plan ("Heavenly Master Plan"), which is discussed in more detail immediately below. The WDRs require the retrofit of certain existing facilities within California according to specified deadlines. Due in part to the lengthy time period required to process and approve Heavenly’s Master Plan Amendment (as defined below), Heavenly requested and received amendments to the WDRs, extending the deadline to October 15, 2008 for completion of the California Main Lodge and Parking Lot water quality Best Management Practices (“BMPs”). Under the amendment, the Main Lodge and Parking Lot is required to meet revised surface runoff water quality criteria by November 30, 2008. The WDRs also contained a requirement to retrofit the Upper Vehicle Maintenance Facility with water quality BMPs, which was completed on October 15, 2007.
During summer 2007, an amendment to the Heavenly Master Plan (the “Master Plan Amendment”) to include new and upgraded trails, lifts, snowmaking, lodges and other facilities was accepted by the Forest Service and approved by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (“TRPA”) and the underlying units of local government with jurisdiction. Portions of the Master Plan Amendment applying to the California side of the resort were subject to the approval of TRPA and El Dorado County, which required compliance with CEQA. The Master Plan Amendment was approved by TRPA and El Dorado County after completion of a joint TRPA/Forest Service EIS/Environmental Impact Report to comply with both CEQA and NEPA. Approval of the Master Plan Amendment included approval by the Forest Service and TRPA of the Phase I projects contemplated in the Master Plan Amendment. Phase I projects, including snowmaking, trail and lift upgrades and construction of a new lodge have been or are in the process of being implemented. Heavenly has begun planning for the implementation of the Phase II projects contemplated in the Master Plan Amendment, which will require compliance with NEPA, CEQA and TRPA regulations and other local laws.
GTLC operates three lodging properties, food and beverage services, retail, camping and other services within the Grand Teton National Park under a concession contract with the NPS. The Company’s concession contract with the NPS for GTLC expires on December 31, 2021. Upon expiration of the concession contract, the Company will have to bid against other prospective concessionaires for award of a new contract.
The NPS may suspend operation under the concession contract at any time if the NPS determines it is necessary to protect visitors or resources within the National Park. NPS also has the right to terminate the contract for breach, following notice and a 15 day cure period or if it believes termination is necessary to protect visitors or resources within the National Park.
The Company pays a fee to the NPS of 8.01% on the majority of sales occurring in the Grand Teton National Park.
The Company relies on a supply of water for operation of its ski areas for domestic and snowmaking purposes and for real estate development. Availability of water depends on existence of adequate water rights as well as physical delivery of the water when and where it is needed.
To provide a level of predictability in dates of operation of our ski areas, the Company relies on snowmaking. Snowmaking requires a significant volume of water, which is viewed as a non-consumptive use – approximately 80% of the water is returned to the watershed at spring runoff.
In Colorado, the Company owns or has ownership interest in water rights in reservoir companies, reservoirs, groundwater wells, and other sources. The primary source of water for Keystone and Breckenridge is the Clinton Reservoir, in which the Company owns a non-controlling interest. For Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek, the primary water source is Eagle Park Reservoir, in which the Company owns a controlling interest. The Company believes that it has rights to sufficient quantities of water for the operation of the Company’s four Colorado resorts for the foreseeable future.
Delivery of the water to each resort is typically by stream, from which the water is diverted by the Company to on-site storage facilities or directly into the snowmaking system. The streams that deliver the water are subject to minimum stream flows, freezing and other limitations that may prevent or reduce the amount of water physically available to the resort.
Unlike the Company’s other Colorado resorts, Keystone does not have on-site storage for snowmaking water and so is more vulnerable to interruptions in delivery of a physical supply of water.
Heavenly’s primary sources of water are the South Tahoe Public Utility District and Kingsbury General Improvement District, which are California and Nevada public utilities, respectively. Heavenly has short term contracts with both utility companies and pays prevailing rates. While the Company believes that both sources of water will be available long term, the Company has no contractual guaranty of service, delivery or future pricing. Further, the delivery systems of each utility are limited and may not be able to provide the immediate physical supply of water needed for optimal snowmaking.
In March 2007, 55 water units required for completion of the Stagecoach Lodge Planned Development in Douglas County, Nevada reverted to the Kingsbury General Improvement District, the water and sewer district that services the planned development. Heavenly continues to hold an additional 65 water units for the planned development, which provides sufficient water for Phase I of the proposed development. However, the Company cannot predict whether it will be able to acquire the additional water units required for future phases of the planned development.
The Company reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) information, including its annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Act”) that are available free of charge on the Company's corporate website (www.vailresorts.com) as soon as reasonably practicable after the information is electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC. In addition, the Company's Code of Ethics and Business Conduct is available on its website. None of the content of the Company's corporate website is incorporated by reference herein. Copies of any materials the Company files with the SEC can be obtained at www.sec.gov or at the SEC's Public Reference Room at 100 F Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20549. Information on the operation of the Public Reference Room is available by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330.
The risks described below should carefully be considered together with the other information contained in this report. The risks described below are not the only risks facing us. Additional risks and uncertainties not currently known to us or that we currently deem to be immaterial may also materially affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business is highly seasonal.> Our mountain and lodging operations are highly seasonal in nature. In particular, revenue and profits from our mountain and most of our lodging operations are substantially lower and historically result in losses from late spring to late fall. Conversely, peak operating seasons for GTLC, certain managed hotel properties and our golf courses occur during the summer months while the winter season generally results in operating losses. Revenue and profits generated by GTLC's summer operations, management fees from certain managed properties, certain other lodging properties and golf operations are not nearly sufficient to fully offset the Company's off-season losses from its mountain and other lodging operations. For the year ended July 31, 2008, 80% of total combined Mountain and Lodging segment net revenue was earned during our fiscal second and third quarters. In addition, the timing of major holidays can impact vacation patterns and therefore visitation at our ski resorts. Operating results for any three-month period are not necessarily indicative of the results that may be achieved for any subsequent quarter or for a full fiscal year (see Note 15, Selected Quarterly Financial Data, of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements).
We are vulnerable to the risk of unfavorable weather conditions.> The ability to attract visitors to our resorts is influenced by weather conditions and by the amount and timing of snowfall during the ski season. Unfavorable weather conditions can adversely affect skier visits and our revenue and profits. Unseasonably warm weather may result in inadequate natural snowfall and reduce skiable terrain which increases the cost of snowmaking and could render snowmaking wholly or partially ineffective in maintaining quality skiing conditions, including in areas which are not accessible by snowmaking equipment. Excessive natural snowfall may materially increase the costs incurred for grooming trails and may also make it difficult for visitors to obtain access to our mountain resorts. In the past 20 years, our Colorado ski resorts have averaged between 20 and 30 feet of annual snowfall and Heavenly receives average yearly snowfall of approximately 23 feet, both of which are significantly in excess of the average for United States ski resorts. However, there is no assurance that our resorts will receive seasonal snowfalls near the historical average in the future. Also, the early season snow conditions and skier perceptions of early season snow conditions influence the momentum and success of the overall season. In addition, a severe and prolonged drought could affect our otherwise adequate snowmaking water supplies or increase the cost of snowmaking. Unfavorable weather conditions, including those which may increase the risk of the occurrence of forest fires, can adversely affect our resorts and lodging properties as vacationers tend to delay or postpone vacations if conditions differ from those that typically prevail at such resorts for a given season. There is no way for us to predict future weather patterns or the impact that weather patterns may have on our results of operations or visitation.
We are subject to the risk of economic downturns including adverse affects on the overall travel and leisure related industries.> Periods of economic slowdown or recession, whether regional, national or international, may decrease the discretionary spending of our guests. Actual or perceived fear of recession may also lead to decreased discretionary spending. Skiing, travel and tourism are discretionary recreational activities that can entail a relatively high cost of participation and can be adversely affected by economic slowdown or recession, which, in turn, could negatively impact our operating results. This could further be exacerbated by the fact that we charge some of the highest ticket prices, as well as prices for our ancillary businesses including ski school, in the ski industry. While pricing increases historically have not reduced demand, there can be no assurances that demand will remain price inelastic. Similarly, there can be no assurance that a decrease in the amount of discretionary spending by the public would not have an adverse effect on our results of operations. Additionally, many of our guests travel by air and the impact of higher fuel costs in addition to higher cost and availability of air services may cause a decrease in visitation by destination guests to our resorts. Higher energy costs and gasoline prices may also result in a reduction to in-state visitation.
We depend on a seasonal workforce.> Our mountain and lodging operations are largely dependent on a seasonal workforce. We recruit worldwide to fill staffing needs each season and utilize visas to enable the use of foreign workers. In addition, we manage seasonal wages and the timing of the hiring process to ensure the appropriate workforce is in place. We cannot guarantee that material increases in the cost of securing our seasonal workforce will not be necessary in the future. Furthermore, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to obtain the visas necessary to hire foreign workers who are an important source for the seasonal workforce. Increased seasonal wages or an inadequate workforce could have an adverse impact on our results of operations.
Terrorist acts upon the United States and acts of war (actual or threatened) could have a material adverse effect on us.> The terrorist acts carried out against the United States on September 11, 2001 and the war with Iraq and its aftermath adversely impacted the international travel and leisure industry. Additional terrorist acts against the United States and the threat of or actual war by or upon the United States could depress the public's propensity to travel, upon which our operations are highly dependent, which could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations.
We face significant competition.> The ski resort and lodging industries are highly competitive. The number of people who ski in the United States (as measured in skier visits) has generally ranged between 52 million and 61 million annually over the last decade, with approximately 60.5 million visits for the 2007/2008 ski season. The factors that we believe are important to customers include:
We have many competitors for our ski vacationers, including other major resorts in Colorado, Lake Tahoe area and other major destination ski areas worldwide. Our destination guests can choose from any of these alternatives, as well as non-skiing vacation destinations around the world. In addition, other forms of leisure such as sporting events and participation in other competing indoor and outdoor recreational activities are available to potential guests.
RockResorts hotels and our other hotels compete with numerous other hotel companies that may have greater financial resources than we do and they may be able to adapt more quickly to changes in customer requirements or devote greater resources to promotion of their offerings than us. We believe that developing and maintaining a competitive advantage will require us to make continued capital investment in our resorts. We cannot assure that we will have sufficient resources to make the necessary capital investments to do so, and we cannot assure that we will be able to compete successfully in this market or against such competitors.
Our future acquisitions might not be successful.> Historically, we have acquired certain ski resorts and other destination resorts and hotel properties, as well as developable land in proximity to our resorts. We cannot make assurances that we will be able to continue to successfully integrate and manage these acquired properties profitably or increase our profits from these operations. We continually evaluate potential acquisitions and intend to actively pursue acquisition opportunities, some of which could be significant. We could face various risks from additional acquisitions, including:
In addition, we run the risk that any new acquisitions may fail to perform in accordance with expectations, and that estimates of the costs of improvements for such properties may prove inaccurate.
Our future real estate development plans might not be successful.> We have significant development plans for our properties and/or operations. We could experience significant difficulties initiating or completing these projects, due to among other things:
Our real estate development plans are designed to make our resorts attractive to our guests and to maintain competitiveness. If we are not successful in implementing our development plans, in addition to not realizing intended profits from the real estate developments, our guests may choose to go to other resorts that they perceive have better amenities and our results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Future changes in the real estate market could affect the value of our investments.> We have extensive holdings of real property at our resorts throughout Summit and Eagle Counties in Colorado. We have plans to make significant additional investments in developing property at all of our mountain resorts. The value of our real estate property and the revenue from related development activities may be adversely affected by a number of factors, including:
We may not be able to fund resort capital expenditures and investment in real estate. >We expect to continue incurring substantial resort capital expenditures and investments in real estate development. We currently anticipate resort capital expenditures (primarily related to the Mountain and Lodging segments) will be approximately $105 million to $115 million for calendar year 2008. Based on the status of several specific real estate projects, we will continue to invest significant amounts in real estate over the next several years and we currently anticipate real estate investments to be approximately $260 million to $280 million for calendar year 2008. Our ability to fund these investments will depend on our ability to generate sufficient cash flow from operations, obtain substantial pre-sale deposits and/or to borrow from third parties. We cannot provide assurances that our operations will be able to generate sufficient cash flow to fund such development costs, or that we will be able to obtain sufficient financing on adequate terms, or at all. Our ability to generate cash flow and to obtain third-party financing will depend upon many factors, including:
Any inability to generate sufficient cash flows from operations or to obtain adequate third-party financing could cause us to delay or abandon certain development plans which could have a material adverse effect on our operating results and financial condition.
We rely on government permits.> Certain of our resort operations require permits and approvals from certain Federal, state, and local authorities, to the Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Virtually all of our ski trails and related activities at Vail Mountain, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly and a majority of Beaver Creek are located on Federal land. The Forest Service has granted us permits to use these lands, but maintains the right to review and approve many operational matters, as well as the location, design and construction of improvements in these areas. Currently, our permits expire December 31, 2029 for Breckenridge, October 31, 2031 for Vail Mountain, December 31, 2032 for Keystone, December 31, 2038 for Beaver Creek and May 1, 2042 for Heavenly. The Forest Service can terminate or amend these permits if, in its opinion, such termination is required in the public interest. A termination or amendment of any of our permits could have a materially adverse affect on our business and operations.
In order to undertake improvements and new development, we must apply for permits and other approvals. These efforts, if unsuccessful, could impact our expansion efforts. Furthermore, Congress may materially increase the fees we pay to the Forest Service for use of these Federal lands.
We are subject to extensive environmental laws and regulations in the ordinary course of business. >Our operations are subject to a variety of Federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations including those relating to emissions to the air, discharges to water, storage, treatment and disposal of wastes, land use, remediation of contaminated sites and protection of natural resources such as wetlands. For example, future expansions of certain of our ski facilities must comply with applicable forest plans approved under the National Forest Management Act or local zoning requirements. In addition, most projects to improve, upgrade or expand our ski areas are subject to environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act and, for California projects at Heavenly, the California Environmental Quality Act. Both acts require that the Forest Service study any proposal for potential environmental impacts and include in its analysis various alternatives. Our ski area improvement proposals may not be approved or may be approved with modifications that substantially increase the cost or decrease the desirability of implementing the project. Our facilities are subject to risks associated with mold and other indoor building contaminants. From time to time our operations are subject to inspections by environmental regulators or other regulatory agencies. We are also subject to worker health and safety requirements. We believe our operations are in substantial compliance with applicable material environmental, health and safety requirements. However, our efforts to comply do not eliminate the risk that we may be held liable, incur fines or be subject to claims for damages, and that the amount of any liability, fines, damages or remediation costs may be material for, among other things, the presence or release of regulated materials at, on or emanating from properties we now or formerly owned or operated, newly discovered environmental impacts or contamination at or from any of our properties, or changes in environmental laws and regulations or their enforcement.
Failure to maintain the integrity of guest data could result in damages of reputation and/or subject us to costs, fines or lawsuits.> We collect personally identifiable information relating to our guests for various business purposes, including marketing and promotional purposes. The integrity and privacy of our guest’s information is important to us and our guests have a high expectation that we will adequately protect their personal information. The regulatory environment governing privacy laws is increasingly demanding and privacy laws continue to evolve and on occasion may be inconsistent from one jurisdiction to another. Compliance with applicable privacy regulations may increase our operating costs and/or adversely impact our ability to market our products, properties and services to our guests. Furthermore, non-compliance with applicable privacy regulations by us (or in some circumstances non-compliance by third parties engaged by us), breach of security on systems storing our guest data, a loss of guest data or fraudulent use of guest data could aversely impact our reputation or result in fines or other damages and litigation.
The high fixed cost structure of ski resort operations. >The cost structure of ski resort operations is largely fixed (with the exception of certain variable expenses including Forest Service fees, other resort related fees, credit card fees, retail/rental operations, ski school labor and dining operations) and any unforeseen material declines in the economy, elevated geopolitical uncertainties and/or significant changes in historical snowfall patterns, as well as other risk factors discussed herein could adversely effect revenue. As such, our margin, profits and cash flows may be materially reduced due to declines in revenue given our high fixed cost structure.
We are subject to litigation in the ordinary course of business. >We are, from time to time, subject to various asserted or unasserted legal proceedings and claims. Any such claims, regardless of merit, could be time-consuming and expensive to defend and could divert management’s attention and resources. While management believes we have adequate insurance coverage and accrues loss contingencies for all known matters that are probable and can be reasonably estimated, we cannot assure that the outcome of all current or future litigation will not have a material adverse effect on us and our results of operations. For a more detailed discussion of our legal proceedings see Legal Proceedings under Item 3 and Note 13, Commitments and Contingencies, of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements.
We are subject to the risks of brand concentration.> We are subject to the potential risks associated with concentration of our hotels under the RockResorts brand and the brand image associated with each of our ski resorts. A negative public image or other adverse event which becomes associated with one of our brands could adversely affect our revenue and profitability.
If we do not retain our key personnel, our business may suffer.> The success of our business is heavily dependent on the leadership of key management personnel, including our Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice Presidents of our Mountain Division, Chief Operating Officer of RockResorts, President of VRDC, General Counsel and each of our Senior Vice Presidents. If any of these persons were to leave, it could be difficult to replace them, and our business could be harmed. We do not maintain “key-man” life insurance on any of our employees.
We are subject to accounting regulations and use certain accounting estimates and judgments that may differ significantly from actual results. >Implementation of existing and future legislation, rulings, standards and interpretations from the FASB or other regulatory bodies could affect the presentation of our financial statements and related disclosures. Future regulatory requirements could significantly change our current accounting practices and disclosures. Such changes in the presentation of our financial statements and related disclosures could change an investor’s interpretation or perception of our financial position and results of operations.
We use many methods, estimates and judgments in applying our accounting policies (see Critical Accounting Policies in Item 7 of this Form 10-K). Such methods, estimates and judgments are, by their nature, subject to substantial risks, uncertainties and assumptions, and factors may arise over time that lead us to change our methods, estimates and judgments. Changes in those methods, estimates and judgments could significantly affect our results of operations.
Our stock price is highly volatile. >The market price of our stock is highly volatile and subject to wide fluctuations in response to factors such as the following, some of which are beyond our control:
Stock markets in the United States often experience extreme price and volume fluctuations. Market fluctuations, as well as general political and economic conditions such as acts of terrorism, a recession or interest rate or currency rate fluctuations, could adversely affect the market price of our stock.
We have not historically paid cash dividends to our common stockholders. >We have not declared or paid any cash dividends on our common shares since becoming publicly traded in 1997. Payment of any future dividends on our common stock will depend upon our earnings and capital requirements, the terms of our debt instruments and other factors the Board of Directors considers appropriate.
Anti-takeover provisions affecting us could prevent or delay a change of control that is beneficial to our shareholders. >Provisions of our certificate of incorporation and bylaws, provisions of our debt instruments and other agreements and provisions of applicable Delaware law and applicable Federal and state regulations may discourage, delay or prevent a merger or other change of control that holders of our securities may consider favorable. These provisions could:
Our indebtedness could adversely affect our financial health and prevent us from fulfilling our obligations.> Our level of indebtedness could have important consequences even though we have minimal principal payments due over the next five years (excluding payments of amounts due under non-recourse real estate financings which will be made utilizing proceeds from the applicable real estate closings). For example, it could:
We may be able to incur substantial additional indebtedness in the future. The terms of our Indenture
(as defined below) do not fully prohibit us from doing so. Our Credit Facility (as defined below) permits additional borrowings of up to $306.2 million as of July 31, 2008. If new debt is added to our current debt levels, the related risks that we face could intensify.
There are restrictions imposed by the terms of our indebtedness.> The operating and financial restrictions and covenants in our senior credit facility (the “Credit Facility”) and the Indenture, dated as of January 29, 2004 among us, the guarantors therein and the Bank of New York, as Trustee (“Indenture”), governing the 6.75% Senior Subordinated Notes due 2014 (“6.75% Notes”) may adversely affect our ability to finance future operations or capital needs or to engage in other business activities that may be in our long-term best interests. For example, the Indenture and the Credit Facility contain a number of restrictive covenants that impose significant operating and financial restrictions on us, including restrictions on our ability to, among other things:
In addition, there can be no assurance that we will meet the financial covenants contained in our Credit Facility. If we breach any of these restrictions or covenants, or suffer a material adverse change which restricts our borrowing ability under our Credit Facility, we would not be able to borrow funds thereunder without a waiver, which inability could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, a breach, if uncured, could cause a default under the 6.75% Notes and our other debt. Our indebtedness may then become immediately due and payable. We may not have or be able to obtain sufficient funds to make these accelerated payments, including payments on the 6.75% Notes.
The following table sets forth the principal properties owned or leased by the Company for use in its operations:
The Forest Service SUPs are encumbered under certain debt instruments of the Company. Many of the Company's properties are used across all segments in complementary and interdependent ways.
The Company is a party to various lawsuits arising in the ordinary course of business, including Resort (Mountain and Lodging) related cases and contractual and commercial litigation that arises from time to time in connection with the Company's real estate and other business operations. Management believes the Company has adequate insurance coverage or has accrued for loss contingencies for all known matters and that, although the ultimate outcome of such claims cannot be ascertained, current pending and threatened claims are not expected to have a material, individually and in the aggregate, adverse impact on the financial position, results of operations and cash flows of the Company.
During the fourth quarter of the fiscal year ended July 31, 2007, the Company entered into an agreement with Peninsula Advisors, LLC (“Peninsula”) for the negotiation and mutual acquisition of The Canyons ski resort (“The Canyons”) and the land underlying The Canyons. On July 15, 2007, American Skiing Company (“ASC”) entered into an agreement to sell The Canyons to Talisker Corporation and Talisker Canyons Finance Company, LLC (together “Talisker”). On July 27, 2007, the Company filed a complaint in the District Court in Colorado against Peninsula and Talisker claiming, among other things, breach of contract by Peninsula and intentional interference with contractual relations and prospective business relations by Talisker and seeking damages, specific performance and injunctive relief. On October 19, 2007, the Company’s request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the closing of the acquisition by Talisker of The Canyons from ASC was denied. On November 8, 2007, Talisker filed an answer to the Company’s complaint along with three counterclaims. On November 12, 2007, Peninsula filed a motion to dismiss and for partial summary judgment. The Company believes that these counter claims and motions are without merit. These motions were set for hearing on June 20, 2008 but the date was vacated upon request of new counsel to Peninsula and a new hearing date has not yet been set. The Company is unable to predict the ultimate outcome of the above described actions.
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT'S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES.
The Company's common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “MTN”. As of September 22, 2008, 36,921,791 shares of common stock were outstanding, held by approximately 402 holders of record.
The declaration of cash dividends in the future will depend on the Company's earnings, financial condition, capital needs, restrictions under debt instruments and on other factors deemed relevant by the Board of Directors at that time. It is the current policy of the Company's Board of Directors to retain earnings to finance the operations and expansion of the Company's business.
The following table sets forth, for the years ended July 31, 2008 and 2007, and quarters indicated (ended October 31, January 31, April 30, and July 31) the range of high and low per share sales prices of the Company’s common stock as reported on the New York Stock Exchange Composite Tape.
The following table summarizes the purchase of the Company’s equity securities during the fourth quarter of the year ended July 31, 2008:
The total return graph is presented for the period from the end of the Company’s 2003 fiscal year through the end of the Company’s 2008 fiscal year. The comparison assumes that $100 was invested at the beginning of the period in the common stock of the Company (“MTN”), The Russell 2000, The Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index and the Dow Jones U.S. Travel and Leisure Stock Index. The Company included the Dow Jones U.S. Travel and Leisure Index as the Company believes it competes in the travel and leisure industry.
The following table presents selected historical consolidated financial data of the Company derived from the Company's Consolidated Financial Statements for the periods indicated. The financial data for the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006 and as of July 31, 2008 and 2007 should be read in conjunction with the Consolidated Financial Statements, related notes thereto and Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations contained elsewhere in this Form 10-K. The table presented below is unaudited. The data presented below are in thousands, except for diluted per share net income (loss), effective ticket price (“ETP”), ADR and RevPAR amounts.
The following Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations of the Company should be read in conjunction with the Consolidated Financial Statements and notes related thereto included in this Form 10-K. To the extent that the following Management's Discussion and Analysis contains statements which are not of a historical nature, such statements are forward-looking statements which involve risks and uncertainties. These risks include, but are not limited to, those discussed in Item 1A, “Risk Factors” in this Form 10-K. The following discussion and analysis should be read in conjunction with the Forward-Looking Statements and Item 1A, “Risk Factors” each included in this Form 10-K.
Management’s Discussion and Analysis includes discussion of financial performance within each of the Company’s segments. The Company has chosen to specifically include Reported EBITDA (defined as segment net revenue less segment operating expense, plus or minus segment equity investment income or loss and for the Real Estate segment, plus gain on sale of real property) and Net Debt (defined as long-term debt plus long-term debt due within one year less cash and cash equivalents), in the following discussion because management considers these measurements to be significant indications of the Company’s financial performance and available capital resources. Reported EBITDA and Net Debt are not measures of financial performance or liquidity under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”). The Company utilizes Reported EBITDA in evaluating performance of the Company and in allocating resources to its segments. Refer to the end of the Results of Operations section for a reconciliation of Reported EBITDA to net income. Management also believes that Net Debt is an important measurement as it is an indicator of the Company’s ability to obtain additional capital resources for its future cash needs. Refer to the end of the Results of Operations section for a reconciliation of Net Debt.
Items excluded from Reported EBITDA and Net Debt are significant components in understanding and assessing financial performance or liquidity. Reported EBITDA and Net Debt should not be considered in isolation or as an alternative to, or substitute for, net income, net change in cash and cash equivalents or other financial statement data presented in the Consolidated Financial Statements as indicators of financial performance or liquidity. Because Reported EBITDA and Net Debt are not measurements determined in accordance with GAAP and are thus susceptible to varying calculations, Reported EBITDA and Net Debt as presented may not be comparable to other similarly titled measures of other companies.
The Company's operations are grouped into three integrated and interdependent segments: Mountain, Lodging and Real Estate, which represented 59%, 15% and 26%, respectively, of the Company's net revenue for the year ended July 31, 2008. The Mountain segment is comprised of the operations of five ski resort properties as well as ancillary businesses, primarily including ski school, dining and retail/rental operations. Mountain segment revenue is seasonal in nature, the majority of which is earned in the Company’s second and third fiscal quarters. Operations within the Lodging segment include (i) ownership/management of a group of nine luxury hotels through the RockResorts brand, including five proximate to the Company's ski resorts; (ii) the ownership/management of non-RockResorts branded hotels and condominiums proximate to the Company's ski resorts; (iii) GTLC; and (iv) golf courses. The Resort segment is the combination of the Mountain and Lodging segments. The Real Estate segment owns and develops real estate in and around the Company's resort communities.
The Company's single largest source of Mountain segment revenue is the sale of lift tickets (including season passes), which represented approximately 44%, 43% and 42% of Mountain segment net revenue for the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. Lift ticket revenue is driven by volume and pricing. Pricing is impacted by both absolute pricing as well as the demographic mix of guests, which impacts the price points at which various products are purchased. The demographic mix of guests is divided into two primary categories: (i) out-of-state and international guests (“Destination”) and (ii) in-state and local visitors (“In-State”). For the 2007/2008 ski season, Destination guests comprised an estimated 63% of the Company's skier visits, while the In-State market comprised an estimated 37% of the Company's skier visits. Destination guests generally purchase the Company's higher-priced lift ticket products and utilize more ancillary services such as ski school, dining and retail/rental as well as the lodging at or around the Company’s resorts. Destination guests are less likely to be impacted by changes in the weather, due to the advance planning required for their trip, but can be impacted by general economic conditions and the global geopolitical climate. In-State guests tend to be more weather-sensitive and value-oriented; to address this, the Company markets season passes to In-State guests, generally prior to the start of the ski season. Approximately 26%, 25% and 23% of the total lift revenue was comprised of season pass revenue for the 2007/2008, 2006/2007 and 2005/2006 ski seasons, respectively. The cost structure of ski resort operations once a certain level of visitation is achieved is largely fixed (with the exception of certain variable expenses including Forest Service fees, other resort related fees, credit card fees, retail/rental operations, ski school labor and dining operations); as such, incremental revenue generally has high associated profit margin.
Lodging properties at or around the Company's ski resorts represented approximately 63%, 61% and 62% of the Lodging segment net revenue for the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively, and are closely aligned with the performance of the Mountain segment, particularly with respect to visitation by Destination guests. Revenue generated through management fees is based upon the revenue of managed individual hotel properties within the lodging portfolio, and to the extent that these managed properties are not proximate to ski resorts, the seasonality of those hotels more closely resembles the seasonality and trends within the overall travel industry. Revenue of the Lodging segment during the Company's first and fourth fiscal quarters is generated primarily by the operations of GTLC (as GTLC's peak operating season occurs during the summer months), as well as golf operations and operations from the Company's other owned and managed properties.
The Company’s Real Estate segment primarily engages in both the vertical development of projects and to a lesser degree the sale of land to third-party developers, which latter activity generally includes the retention of some involvement and control in the infrastructure, development, oversight and design of the projects and a contingent revenue structure based on the ultimate sale of the developed units. The Company attempts to mitigate the risk of vertical development by utilizing guaranteed maximum price construction contracts (although certain construction costs may not be covered by contractual limitations), pre-selling a portion of the project, which generally requires significant non-refundable deposits, and obtaining non-recourse financing for certain projects. The Company’s real estate development projects also may result in the creation of certain resort assets that provide additional benefit to the Resort segment. The Company’s Real Estate revenue and associated expense fluctuate based upon the timing of closings and the type of real estate being sold, thus increasing the volatility of Real Estate operating results between periods. In the near-term, the majority of Real Estate revenue is expected to be generated from vertical development projects that are currently under construction, in which revenue and related cost of sales will be recorded at the time of real estate closings.
The data provided in this section should be read in conjunction with the risk factors identified in Item 1A and elsewhere in this Form 10-K. The Company's management has identified the following important factors (as well as uncertainties associated with such factors) that could impact the Company's future financial performance:
Shown below is a summary of operating results for the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006 (in thousands):
Mountain segment operating results for the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006 are presented by category as follows (in thousands, except ETP):
Total Mountain Reported EBITDA includes $3.8 million, $3.8 million and $3.7 million of stock-based compensation expense for the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively.
Lift ticket revenue increased $14.9 million and $24.0 million for the years ended July 31, 2008 and July 31, 2007, respectively, primarily as a result of increased ETP excluding season pass products, which was driven by an increase in absolute pricing. Additionally, season pass revenue rose $5.5 million and $10.9 million (an increase of 7.7% and 17.7%), respectively, for the years ended July 31, 2008 and July 31, 2007. For the year ended July 31, 2008, almost all of the increase in season pass revenue was due to increases in pricing, with season pass holders’ average visitation per pass increasing for the 2007/2008 ski season compared to the prior year, partially offsetting the increase in ETP resulting from price increases; whereas, the increase in season pass revenue for the year ended July 31, 2007 was impacted by both price increases and higher sales volume. Partially offsetting the above discussed increases in price and season pass revenue was a decline in skier visits excluding season pass holders of 3.0% and 1.0% for the years ended July 31, 2008 and July 31, 2007, respectively, at the Company’s five ski resorts. The decline for the year ended July 31, 2008 was the result of lower skier visitation excluding season pass holders in non-peak periods, including the early season (prior to December 24) due to below average snow conditions, and early March and April due in part to the timing of Easter which was in March for the year ended July 31, 2008 versus April in the years ended July 31, 2007 and 2006, all of which was partially offset by significant increases in international visitation which was higher by an estimated 26% for the year ended July 31, 2008. The decline in overall skier visits for the year ended July 31, 2007 was due to a decline at the Company’s Heavenly resort primarily attributable to below average snowfall, while visitation excluding season pass holders at the Colorado resorts increased.
Revenue for the Company’s ski school and dining increased for the years ended July 31, 2008 and July 31, 2007, primarily as a result of absolute price increases. However, the overall revenue increase from ski school for the year ended July 31, 2008 was impacted by a decline in skier visitation excluding season pass holders (as discussed above) as these guests have a higher participation rate in ski school. Additionally, dining revenue for the year ended July 31, 2008 was impacted by a decline in skier visitation excluding season pass holders, but was favorably impacted by the acquisition of two licensed Starbucks stores in June 2007.
Retail/rental revenue improved by $8.2 million for the year ended July 31, 2008 over the prior year and was due in part to the operations of 18 Breeze Ski Rental locations acquired in June 2007. Retail/rental experienced an $11.2 million increase in revenue for the year ended July 31, 2007, due to increased visitation at the Company’s Colorado resorts excluding season pass holders, as the majority of the retail/rental locations are concentrated in Colorado.
Other revenue mainly consists of private club revenue (which includes both club dues and amortization of initiation fees), summer visitation and other mountain activities revenue, allocated strategic alliance revenue, commercial leasing revenue, employee housing revenue, technology services revenue (until the disposition of the Company’s investment in RTP in April 2007), municipal services revenue and other recreation activity revenue. For the year ended July 31, 2008 revenues were down $8.4 million compared to the prior year due to the disposition in April 2007 of the Company’s investment in RTP. Excluding this disposition, other revenue would have increased by $0.6 million, or 0.8% for the year ended July 31, 2008 compared to the year ended July 31, 2007. For the year ended July 31, 2007 other revenue was flat compared to the year ended July 31, 2006, primarily due to lost revenue for the fourth fiscal quarter in the year ended July 31, 2007 as a result of the disposition of the Company’s investment in RTP which offset increased revenues from commercial leasing and other ancillary mountain activities.
Operating expense increased $7.7 million and $19.6 million during the years ended July 31, 2008 and 2007, respectively. Excluding retail/rental expense (which has a high variable cost component and therefore increased in relation to the retail/rental revenue) and RTP, operating expense increased 2.3% and 3.8% for the years ended July 31, 2008 and 2007, respectively, which was primarily attributable to higher variable costs related to higher revenue, including Forest Service fees, other resort related fees and credit card fees, and certain labor related costs, including higher ski school labor expense to support the higher ski school revenue.
Mountain equity investment income primarily includes the Company's share of income from the operations of a real estate brokerage joint venture; the increase in equity investment income in both the years ended July 31, 2008 and 2007 is due primarily to increased commissions earned by the brokerage associated with increased real estate closures surrounding the Company’s Colorado resorts, both from residential and multi-unit projects.
Lodging segment operating results for the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006 are presented by category as follows (in thousands, except ADR and RevPAR):
Total Lodging Reported EBITDA includes $1.3 million, $1.1 million and $1.3 million of stock-based compensation expense for the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively.
Total Lodging segment net revenue for the year ended July 31, 2008 increased by $7.6 million as compared to the year ended July 31, 2007. Included in net revenue for the year ended July 31, 2007 was the recognition of $5.4 million in termination fees primarily associated with the termination of the management agreements at The Equinox and Rancho Mirage (pursuant to the terms of the management agreements). Excluding these termination fees, Lodging segment net revenue would have increased $13.0 million, or 8.3% for the year ended July 31, 2008, compared to the year ended July 31, 2007. ADR increased 6.2% for the year ended July 31, 2008 compared to the prior year due to high demand during peak periods in the year (partially offset by lower visitation during non-peak periods, including the early season and the timing of Easter as described in the Mountain segment discussion) and as a result of the addition of The Arrabelle Hotel. RevPAR increased 6.9% for the year ended July 31, 2008 compared to the year ended July 31, 2007, which, in addition to increases in ADR, was driven by a 6.9% increase in conference and group room nights, occurring primarily at GTLC and Keystone lodging properties during the Company’s fourth fiscal quarter ended July 31, 2008. Additionally, Lodging revenue was impacted by fewer available rooms, down 2.5% for the year ended July 31, 2008 as compared to the prior year, primarily as a result of a reduction in managed condominium units at Keystone.
For the year ended July 31, 2006, Lodging Reported EBITDA includes revenue of $5.2 million and operating expenses of $4.5 million related to SRL&S prior to the sale of SRL&S in January 2006. Excluding the impact of the sale of SRL&S, Lodging revenue increased $11.9 million, or 7.9%, for the year ended July 31, 2007, compared to the year ended July 31, 2006. The revenue increase for the year ended July 31, 2007 was partially due to the recognition of $5.4 million in termination fees as discussed above. ADR and RevPAR, which do not include the impact of the termination fees, and excluding the impact of the SRL&S sale, increased 8.5% and 9.5% for the year ended July 31, 2007, respectively, compared to the year ended July 31, 2006. The increase in ADR and RevPAR for the year ended July 31, 2007 was driven by the lodging properties proximate to the Company’s ski resorts and increased revenue at GTLC. The overall Lodging revenue increase during the year ended July 31, 2007 was partially impacted by fewer available rooms, primarily as a result of construction at The Lodge at Vail and a reduction in managed condominium units.
Operating expense increased by $15.6 million for the year ended July 31, 2008 compared to the year ended July 31, 2007 due in part to start-up and pre-opening expenses of approximately $3.1 million associated with the opening of The Arrabelle Hotel. Excluding the current year start-up and pre-opening expenses of The Arrabelle Hotel, operating expenses increased by approximately $12.4 million, or 8.6%, and was primarily attributable to operating expenses of The Arrabelle Hotel after its opening, additional National Park Service fees incurred by GTLC resulting from a new concession contract which became effective January 2007, and other variable operating costs associated with incremental revenue, partially offset by fewer available rooms.
Excluding the impact of the sale of SRL&S, operating expense increased $6.0 million, or 4.3%, for the year ended July 31, 2007 compared to the year ended July 31, 2006. These increases are commensurate with normal increases in variable operating costs, higher RockResorts corporate expenses and increased NPS fees paid by GTLC, partially offset by fewer available rooms.
Real Estate segment operating results for the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006 are presented by category as follows (in thousands):
Total Real Estate Reported EBITDA includes $3.1 million, $2.1 million and $1.5 million of stock-based compensation expense for the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively.
The Company’s Real Estate operating revenue is primarily determined by the timing of closings and the mix of real estate sold in any given period. Different types of projects have different revenue and expense volumes and margins; therefore, as the real estate inventory mix changes it can greatly impact Real Estate segment net revenue, operating expense and Real Estate Reported EBITDA.
Real Estate segment net revenue for the year ended July 31, 2008 was driven primarily by the closing on 64 of the 66 condominium units at Arrabelle ($213.6 million), the closing on five of the 13 units at Chalets ($58.8 million), the closing on the remaining JHG&TC cabins ($9.0 million) and contingent gains on development parcels sales that closed in previous periods. Operating expense for the year ended July 31, 2008 included cost of sales of $225.9 million (including sales commissions) commensurate with revenue recognized, as well as general and administrative costs of approximately $25.4 million. General and administrative costs are primarily comprised of marketing expenses for the major real estate projects under development (including those that have not yet closed), overhead costs such as labor and benefits and allocated corporate costs.
Real Estate segment net revenue for the year ended July 31, 2007 was driven primarily by the closings of the Gore Creek Place ($42.9 million) and Mountain Thunder ($24.1 million) developments, certain JHG&TC cabins ($14.2 million), the sale of land together with certain related infrastructure improvements in Red Sky Ranch and Breckenridge to third-party developers, the sale of the sole asset in the FFT Investment Partners real estate joint venture and contingent gains on development parcel sales that closed in previous periods. Operating expense for the year ended July 31, 2007 included cost of sales of $83.6 million (including sales commissions) commensurate with revenue recognized, as well as general administrative costs of approximately $24.0 million. General and administrative costs are primarily comprised of marketing expenses for the major real estate projects under development, overhead costs such as labor and benefits as the Company increased its infrastructure relative to the increased vertical development activity, and professional services fees. In addition, the Company recorded $7.6 million of charges during the year ended July 31, 2007 for incremental remediation costs to complete the JHG&TC cabins that had design and construction issues.
Real Estate segment net revenue for the year ended July 31, 2006 was primarily generated from the closing of certain townhomes at Gore Creek Place, developer parcel sales in the Beaver Creek area, a land exchange with the Forest Service and contingent gains on development parcel sales that closed in prior periods. Operating expense included cost of sales of $34.1 million (including sales commissions) commensurate with revenue recognized, as well as general and administrative costs of approximately $20.8 million. General and administrative costs are primarily comprised of marketing expenses, overhead costs such as labor and benefits and professional services fees. In addition, the Company recorded $1.8 million in incremental cost of sales during the year ended July 31, 2006 related to the JHG&TC development.
Real Estate equity investment income includes the Company's share of income from the operations of Keystone/Intrawest, LLC (“KRED”), a joint venture with Intrawest Resorts, Inc. formed to develop land at the base of Keystone. In the year ended July 31, 2006, the Company received a distribution from KRED in excess of its carrying basis in the amount of $0.7 million, which the Company recorded as income. The distribution reflected the final proceeds from the sale of developed real estate. As a result, KRED will be dissolved and the Company does not anticipate any further distributions.
The Company currently expects to close on the remaining two Arrabelle units, the remaining eight Chalets and the vast majority, if not all of the Crystal Peak Lodge units during the year ending July 31, 2009 and will recognize the revenue and related cost of sales for these projects at closing. The Company has entered into definitive sales contracts with a value of approximately $175.6 million on the above units yet to be closed. The Company also has significant ongoing construction activities including One Ski Hill Place in Breckenridge and The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Vail.
In addition to segment operating results, the following material items contribute to the Company's overall financial position.
Depreciation and amortization. Depreciation and amortization expense for the years ended July 31, 2008 and 2007 increased primarily as a result of placing in service resort assets, which for the year ended July 31, 2008 included The Arrabelle Hotel and a new skier services building associated with the Chalet project and for both the years ended July 31, 2008 and 2007, an increase in the fixed asset base due to normal capital expenditures.
Relocation and separation charges. In February 2006, the Company announced a plan to relocate its corporate headquarters, and the plan was approved by the Company’s Board of Directors in April 2006. The Company recorded $1.4 million and $2.4 million of relocation charges in the years ended July 31, 2007 and 2006, respectively. The Company’s relocation plan was completed as of July 31, 2007. In addition, in February 2006, Adam Aron, the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, resigned. In connection with Mr. Aron’s resignation, the Company entered into a separation agreement with Mr. Aron, whereby the Company recorded $2.7 million of separation related expenses during the year ended July 31, 2006.
Mold remediation credit. During the year ended July 31, 2006, the Company recorded a $1.4 million mold remediation credit due to Breckenridge Terrace receiving reimbursement from third parties for costs incurred in conjunction with its mold remediation efforts and a true-up adjustment as the remediation project was substantially complete. This credit has been recognized by the Company as a reduction of the remediation expense that was originally recognized in the year ended July 31, 2004 (see Note 13, Commitments and Contingencies, of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements, for more information regarding this credit).
Investment income, net. The Company invests excess cash in highly liquid investments, as permitted under the Credit Agreement underlying the Credit Facility and the Indenture relating to the 6.75% Notes. The decrease in investment income for the year ended July 31, 2008 compared to the previous year is primarily due to a reduction in the average interest earned on investments, a decrease in average invested cash during the period as a result of significant capital investments and common stock repurchases and a $1.0 million impairment on a short-term investment resulting from a commercial paper write-down.
The increase in investment income for the year ended July 31, 2007 compared to the previous year is due to a significant increase in average invested cash balances during the year resulting primarily from increased cash flows net of increased capital expenditures.
Interest expense, net. The Company’s primary sources of interest expense are the 6.75% Notes, its credit facilities, including unused commitment fees and letter of credit fees related to the $400 million revolving credit facility (the “Credit Facility Revolver”) thereunder, the outstanding $57.7 million of industrial development bonds (collectively, the “Industrial Development Bonds”) and the series of bonds issued to finance the construction of employee housing facilities (the “Employee Housing Bonds”). Interest expense decreased $2.0 million for the year ended July 31, 2008 compared to the year ended July 31, 2007 primarily due to a reduction in the average variable borrowing rate of the employee housing bonds and an increase in capitalized interest associated with significant ongoing real estate and related resort development.
Interest expense decreased $3.9 million for the year ended July 31, 2007 compared to the year ended July 31, 2006, due primarily to an increase in capitalized interest associated with significant ongoing real estate and related resort development.
(Loss) gain on sale of businesses, net. The Company recorded a net loss of $0.6 million in the year ended July 31, 2007 on the sale of its investment in RTP. The Company recorded a $4.7 million gain in the year ended July 31, 2006 associated with the sale of the assets constituting SRL&S. Additionally in the year ended July 31, 2006, the Company recorded a $0.1 million loss associated with the December 2004 sale of the Company’s interest in BG Resort due to the settlement of certain contingencies (see Note 9, Sale of Businesses, of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements).
Contract dispute credit (charges), net. In March 2006, RockResorts was notified by the ownership of Cheeca Lodge & Spa, formerly a RockResorts managed property, that its management agreement was being terminated effective immediately. RockResorts believed that the termination was in violation of the management agreement and pursued its legal rights. In October 2007, RockResorts received payment from Cheeca Holdings as final settlement of the parties’ management agreement termination dispute in the amount of $13.5 million, of which $11.9 million (net of final attorney’s fees) is recorded in “contract dispute credit (charges), net” in the Consolidated Statements of Operations for the year ended July 31, 2008. The Company incurred $4.6 million and $3.3 million of legal related costs related to this matter in the years ended July 31, 2007 and 2006, respectively (see Note 13, Commitments and Contingencies, of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements, for more information regarding this settlement).
Gain (loss) on put options, net. The net gain for the year ended July 31, 2007 was related to the elimination of the put option liability (net of the write-off of the associated put option intangible asset) as a result of the sale of the Company’s investment in RTP in April 2007. The net loss in the year ended July 31, 2006 was related to an increase in the estimated fair market value of the RTP put option. As a result of the sale of the Company’s investment in RTP in April 2007, the Company currently does not anticipate recognizing further gain (loss) on put options (see Note 10, Put and Call Options, of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements, for more information regarding the Company's put options).
Minority interest in income of consolidated subsidiaries. Minority interest in income of consolidated subsidiaries is a function of the performance of the Company's consolidated subsidiaries in which there is minority ownership. The decrease in minority interest in the year ended July 31, 2008 is primarily due to a decrease in the minority shareholder’s ownership interest in SSV combined with a decrease in SSV's income before provision for income taxes. The increase in minority interest in the years ended July 31, 2007 and 2006 is primarily due to improvement in SSV's income before provision for income taxes.
Income taxes. The Company's tax provision and effective tax rate are driven primarily by the amount of pre-tax income, taxable income generated by state jurisdictions that varies from the consolidated pre-tax income and other non-deductible items. The increase in the Company’s tax provision for the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006 was primarily driven by a significant increase in pre-tax income. The effective tax rate was 38.0%, 39.0% and 39.0% in the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006, respectively. The income tax provision recorded in the year ended July 31, 2008 reflects the impact of favorable settlements with state taxing authorities of $1.0 million.
The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) has completed its examination of the Company’s tax returns for tax years 2001 through 2003 and has issued a report of its findings. The examiner’s primary finding is the disallowance of the Company’s position to remove the restrictions under Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code of approximately $73.8 million of net operating losses (“NOL”) carryforwards. These restricted NOL carryforwards relate to fresh start accounting from the Company’s reorganization in 1992. The Company has appealed the examiner’s disallowance of these NOL carryforwards to the Office of Appeals. However, if the Company is unsuccessful in its appeals process, it will not negatively impact the Company’s financial position or results of operations.
The following table reconciles Net Debt (defined as long-term debt plus long-term debt due within one year less cash and cash equivalents) (in thousands):
The Company's liquidity profile remained strong during the year ended July 31, 2008. The Company had no borrowings under its Credit Facility and had $162.3 million of cash and cash equivalents as of July 31, 2008. For the years ended July 31, 2008, 2007 and 2006, cash and cash equivalents (decreased) increased by $(68.5) million, $39.0 million and $55.2 million, respectively. The Company generated $217.0 million of cash from operating activities during the year ended July 31, 2008, compared to $118.4 million and $63.7 million generated during the years ended July 31, 2007 and 2006, respectively. For the last three fiscal years, the Company’s cash flows from operations have been positively impacted by an increase in Resort Reported EBITDA (the combination of Mountain Reported EBITDA and Lodging Reported EBITDA). In addition, significant net cash flows from operating activities were generated in the year ended July 31, 2008 due to an increase in Real Estate Reported EBITDA adjusted for real estate cost of sales less investments in real estate. For the years ended July 31, 2007 and 2006 net cash generated from operating activities was negatively impacted as investments in real estate exceeded Real Estate Reported EBITDA adjusted for real estate cost of sales. The Company currently anticipates that Resort Reported EBITDA will continue to provide a significant source of future operating cash flows. Additionally, anticipated closings of real estate projects will provide a significant source of future cash flows from operations, offset by further investments in real estate (as further discussed below within Significant Uses of Cash).
Included within investing activities, the Company generated $30.7 million of cash from the sale of SRL&S in the year ended July 31, 2006. The Company does not currently anticipate material future cash from the sale of businesses in the near term.
Net cash provided by financing activities for the year ended July 31, 2008 decreased by $190.1 million compared to the year ended July 31, 2007 due to the decrease in net non-recourse borrowings of $111.0 million as well as an increase in repurchases of $84.6 million of the Company’s common stock during the year ended July 31, 2008 (as further discussed below within Significant Uses of Cash). Additionally, cash proceeds from the exercise of stock options decreased by $14.6 million (including tax benefits) for the year ended July 31, 2008 compared to the year ended July 31, 2007. The Company’s net cash provided by financing activities for the year ended July 31, 2007 was consistent with the year ended July 31, 2006; however, cash proceeds from the exercise of stock options decreased by $42.6 million (including tax benefits) for the year ended July 31, 2007 compared to the year ended July 31, 2006, which was offset by an increase in proceeds from non-recourse borrowings in the year ended July 31, 2007.
In addition to the Company’s $162.3 million of cash and cash equivalents as of July 31, 2008, the Company has available $306.2 million under its Credit Facility (which represents the total commitment of $400 million less certain letters of credit outstanding of $93.8 million). As of July 31, 2008 and 2007, total long-term debt (including long-term debt due within one year) was $556.7 million and $594.1 million, respectively, with the decrease as of July 31, 2008 due to the net repayment of non-recourse financing related to the Company’s vertical real estate projects. Net Debt (defined as long-term debt plus long-term debt due within one year less cash and cash equivalents) increased from $363.3 million as of July 31, 2007 to $394.4 million as of July 31, 2008 due to a reduction in cash and cash equivalents as discussed above, partially off-set by a reduction in borrowings under the Company’s non-recourse financings. The Company believes it is well positioned to take advantage of potential strategic options as further discussed below, as the Company has significant cash and cash equivalents on hand and no revolver borrowings under its Credit Facility.
The Company expects that its liquidity needs in the near term will be met by continued utilization of operating cash flows (including cash to be generated from anticipated real estate closings net of proceeds used to pay off real estate specific financing) and borrowings, if necessary, under the Credit Facility. In order to provide additional flexibility for the Company’s liquidity needs, the Company finalized in March 2008 an agreement with the lenders in its Credit Facility to utilize an accordion feature to expand commitments under the existing facility by $100 million (for a total borrowing capacity of $400 million), at the same terms existing in the current facility. The Company believes the Credit Facility, which matures in 2012, including the expanded commitments would provide added flexibility especially when evaluating future financing needs for its real estate projects given the current state of the non-recourse financing available in the capital markets, and is priced favorably, with any new borrowings currently being priced at LIBOR plus 0.50%.
In addition to building excess cash, the Company continuously evaluates how to utilize its excess cash, including any combination of the following strategic options: self-funded real estate under development, continue recent levels of investment in resort assets, pursue strategic acquisitions, pay off outstanding debt, repurchase additional common stock of the Company and/or other options to return value to stockholders. The Company’s debt generally has favorable fixed interest rates and is long-term in nature. The Company’s Credit Facility and the Indenture limit the Company’s ability to make investments or distributions, including the payment of dividends and/or the repurchase of the Company’s common stock, and the pay off of certain of its debt, including its 6.75% Notes.
The Company’s cash needs typically include providing for operating expenditures, debt service requirements and capital expenditures for both assets to be used in operations and real estate development projects. In addition, the Company expects it will incur a significant increase in cash income tax payments for the next two to three years due to the utilization of all NOL carryforwards previously available to offset taxable income (subject to the appeal of the IRS ruling described above), real estate under development and an estimated decline in tax benefits resulting from stock award exercises.
The Company expects to spend approximately $260 million to $280 million in calendar year 2008 for real estate development projects, including the construction of associated resort-related depreciable assets, of which $153 million was spent as of July 31, 2008, leaving approximately $107 million to $127 million to spend in the remainder of calendar year 2008. The Company has entered into contracts with third parties to provide construction-related services to the Company throughout the course of construction for these projects; commitments for future services to be performed over the next several years under such current contracts total approximately $291 million. The primary projects are expected to include continued construction and development costs, as well as planning and infrastructure costs associated with planned development projects in and around each of the Company’s resorts. The Company expects investments in real estate will be significant for the foreseeable future as the Company continues its vertical development efforts. The Company has not finalized its real estate development plan for calendar year 2009. The Company obtained non-recourse financing to partially fund construction of Arrabelle and Chalets projects. In addition to utilizing project-specific financing and cash on hand as appropriate, the Company also pre-sells units requiring deposits in a proposed development prior to committing to the completion of the development.