Vail Resorts announced Monday that the company will raise its minimum wage to $20 an hour for the 2022-23 North American ski season.
The Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood resorts are owned by Vail.
The new base salary will apply to all of the company’s US stations. Canadian resorts will also increase base pay to C$20 per hour. Those in skilled positions — including ski patrollers, drivers and others — will start at $21 an hour. Vail Resorts CEO Kirsten Lynch said salaried employees would see pay increases above the current rate of inflation.
The company made the announcement in a press release on Monday ahead of the company’s second quarter 2022 earnings call.
The goal is to bring the company’s headcount back to normal levels, Lynch said on a conference call about the company’s financial performance in its second fiscal quarter. The company plans to spend $175 million on staff increases and other initiatives. This also includes increasing the company’s human resource headcount by approximately 50%, at a cost of approximately $4 million.
Responding to an analyst’s question, Lynch said the pay increase was more about returning to normal staffing than adding new people.
Part of this return to normal operations – marked by the 2019-20 season before the company closes its resorts in March 2020 – will be a return to normal attendance levels. This is especially important at Whistler Blackcomb. This resort and other Canadian resorts have been particularly hard hit by COVID-related travel restrictions.
OMICRON AND STAFF
Staffing at Vail Resorts was hit hard at the start of this season, especially during the Christmas holidays. Lynch said staff were already understaffed during this time, then were further affected by a spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant. This spike put around 10% of the company’s staff on the sick list.
For the season through March 6, Vail Resorts reports a 2.8% increase in skier visits compared to the company’s fiscal year 2020. Elevator revenues increased by more than 10%.
The company’s other businesses – particularly in food and beverages – are still lagging FY20 figures. Declines were also seen in ski schools and ski school revenue. lease.
Occupancy in accommodation has increased since the Christmas holidays, as has the average daily rate.
Vail Resorts puts a lot of emphasis on pass sales, which provide revenue stability in a seasonal business. The company in March 2021 announced a 20% off Epic Pass priceswhich brought prices back to 2015-2016 levels.
Use of passes of all kinds this season accounts for up to 69% of all visitors. However, these discounted passes have not affected peak-period visits, Lynch said.
The growth – nearly 10% – occurred on weekdays, with weekends and holiday visits mostly flat. It’s “a result we wanted to achieve,” Lynch said.
Vail Resorts chief financial officer Michael Barkin said more weekday visits, from day and destination skiers, is a “big use of capacity.”
To further increase capacity, the company is planning a capital improvement plan worth between $327 million and $337 million. These projects include 20 new or replacement ski lifts in 14 resorts.
Given the popularity of the company’s winter resorts, Barkin said Vail Resorts is updating its guidance for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends July 31. This update includes the expectation that hosting will surpass previous forecasts. The updated guidelines assume “normal conditions and operations”, with no associated COVID-19 restrictions, including at the company’s Australian resorts.
Lynch acknowledged that this season has been “difficult”, from the early season conditions to the negative press reports. But, she added, the company is focused on “instilling confidence in its customers… We are confident in our strategies.”