After spending approximately $150 million on capital improvements in 2018, Vail Resorts revealed early this morning its capital plan for 2019. First, a recap. The company went big on lifts this year, building a total of seven including the game-changing Blackcomb Gondola, Catskinner Express and Emerald 6 Express at Whistler Blackcomb, High Meadow Express at Park City and new Galaxy triple at Heavenly. Contracts for projects in all three countries Vail operates were awarded to Doppelmayr this round. With Stevens Pass joining Vail Resorts in August and Crested Butte, Mt. Sunapee and Okemo following in September, next year’s focus will skew towards snowmaking, ticketing infrastructure and restaurants.
Vail will build two lifts at Stevens in 2019. “We plan to replace and upgrade the Daisy and Brooks lifts, both of which serve critical terrain for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders,” says the company. The lift replacements will reduce lift line wait times and increase total lift capacity at Stevens Pass by more than nine percent. Brooks is slated to become a high speed, detachable quad and Daisy a fixed grip quad pending Forest Service approval. Other projects include snowmaking expansions at Keystone, Vail and Beaver Creek, a new Tombstone restaurant at Park City and new skier services facility at Breckenridge. “We remain committed to reinvesting in our resorts, creating an experience of a lifetime for our guests and generating strong returns for our shareholders,” notes CEO Rob Katz.
More lifts should follow in 2020. “We will be investing in planning for strategic projects for the next several years to get the necessary regulatory approvals for major lift, restaurant and terrain expansion opportunities,” the company says. “Among these planning projects is the signature McCoy Park terrain expansion at Beaver Creek which was recently approved by the U.S. Forest Service and we hope to open for the 2020/2021 ski season. McCoy Park will provide guests with great beginner and intermediate skiing in one of the most idyllic settings in Colorado.”
2019 projects will total $175 to $180 million, up markedly from last year. Vail will release more details about its capital plan in March and I’m hoping a few lift projects get added. The approved Golden Peak T-Bar and Game Creek Express upgrade projects on Vail Mountain were noticeably absent from today’s announcement. Nearly all of Vail’s resorts are enjoying plentiful early season snowfall and Epic Pass sales are up 21 percent in units and 13 percent in dollars compared with last year. Vail now has more than 925,000 season passholders, making lift capacity even more important in the years to come.