Ski giant Vail Resorts reported revenue for the fiscal year ended July 31 of $2.1 billion and net income of $348 million. The revenue total was up 28% from the prior year, while earnings nearly tripled, as mountain operations mostly returned to normal, following a COVID-19-impacted 2021.
Vail, which operates 37 facilities in North America, also announced a plan that has some skiers scratching their heads, or helmets in this case. It will launch a pilot program this winter for skiers where “your phone is your ticket to the slopes,” with new technology where guests can store their pass or lift ticket on their phones, eliminating the need to carry a pass or visit the ticket window. Tickets will be scanned at lifts using hands-free Bluetooth technology.
“As a company focused on investing in the future of skiing and riding, we believe that digital innovation, more than ever, will be key for delivering a great guest experience on-mountain,” Tim April, Vail Resorts chief information officer, said in a news release. “We are excited for the more seamless arrival experience this technology will provide for our guests and look forward to unveiling it across our resorts.”
The technology will be tested this winter and rolled out in full for the 2023-24 season. The company says it will reduce waste from printing plastic cards and RFID chips and is in support of its “Commitment to Zero” sustainability promise. It will continue to make plastic cards available to those who do not want to use their phones as passes.
Keeping phones charged in the cold has always been a challenge on the ski slopes and a boon to the portable charger market. Vail, meanwhile, is eager for a smooth start to the 2022-23 season after last year’s viral images of long lift lines, giving rise to the “epicliftlines” Instagram account, which attracted nearly 50,000 followers.
Vail cut the prices on its Epic Pass 20% ahead of the season, and it produced a massive spike in sales. When COVID-19 sent many employees home sick during the season, the company’s resorts faced a multitude of issues around services on and off the mountain.
In its financial results, Vail announced that pass sales were up 6% through Sept. 23 and that it had closed on its purchase of a majority stake in Switzerland’s Andermatt-Sedrun ski area, marking its first investment in a European resort.