Vail Resorts Inc. completed its fiscal year with a 5.0% gain in retail and rental revenues despite a fourth quarter decline of 2.1% in the fourth quarter and said it had made big gains in booking its ski resorts since June.

Retail and rental revenues slipped to $17.2 million in the fourth quarter ended July 31, but rose to $154.8 million for the fiscal year. Despite the Q4 decline, CEO Rob Katz said Labor Day sales beat the prior year and expectations, indicating that Front Range skiers are excited about the arrival of the coming ski season.

The company attributed the $7.4 million increase in fiscal-year retail and rental revenue to an 8.1% increase in retail and rental sales and rental volumes at the Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge mountain resort stores and San Francisco Bay area stores during the 2009/2010 ski season compared to the 2008/2009 ski season.  The increase was partially offset by declines in both the first and fourth quarters of fiscal 2010 due primarily to a decline in sales at mountain resort stores not proximate to company-owned ski resorts.  

Retail and rental cost of sales fell 3.8% during the fourth quarter to $9.9 million and declined 0.7% to $65.5 million for the year due to improved inventory management and lower average inventory costs.

“As we prepare for the upcoming ski season, there are several encouraging signs,” commented Katz.  “First, our sales of season passes have already improved significantly over the course of the summer and into the early fall selling period.  We are pleased to report that through September 19, 2010, our season pass sales are down only 1% in units and sales, a substantial improvement from the 14% and 16%, respective declines we reported in June 2010.

Second, although it is still early in the bookings cycle, (less than 15% of winter season bookings are historically made by this time), most booking indicators at our resorts are up in both room nights and revenue over the prior year at the same point in time.”