ASC makes $21M

Third quarter first profitable period this year; Steamboat skier visits up

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— American Skiing Co. on Thursday reported earnings of $21.5 million during the quarter that ended April 30 despite an early end to the season for the company's eastern ski resorts.

American Skiing is the parent company of the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

The third-quarter earnings would have been higher if American Skiing's New England resorts did not have to close one to two weeks early, further shortening a season that got off to a late start, the company said. Nonetheless, the company's top executive said there was cause for optimism after losses of $43.1 million in the first two quarters.

''Although unseasonable weather prevented the 1999/2000 ski season from meeting our expectations, our financial results this quarter demonstrate that American Skiing is on solid foundation,'' Les Otten, chairman and chief executive officer, was quoted in a prepared statement.

The net income, which amounted to 42 cents per diluted share, was slightly higher than earnings of $21.2 million, or 68 cents per diluted share, in the same period last year, when fewer shares were outstanding.

The earnings cut the net loss for the first nine months of the ski resort's fiscal year to $21.6 million, Otten said.

Total revenues continued to grow. They totaled $223.1 million in the third quarter this year, compared to $164.9 million in the same period last year, thanks largely to strong real estate performance.

Real estate revenue was $73.2 million for the third quarter, compared to $10.3 million for the same period last year, the company said. Resort revenue actually dropped slightly to $149.9 million.

During last year's third quarter, resort revenues which are a compilation of lift ticket revenues, food and beverage receipts and lodging revenues totaled $154 million. The increase in combined revenues was not, then, due to an increase in resort services but to an increase in real estate revenues.

The Grand Summit and Sundial Lodge openings at the Canyons in Utah contributed the lion's share of increased real estate revenues, said ASC's head of media communication, Skip King. Closings on some New England properties also added to the increase.

The Steamboat Grand, which is scheduled to open June 30, has not yet been figured into real estate revenues, but probably will by the end of the next quarter, said ski corp. President Chris Diamond.

The loss in resort revenues could be attributed to a combination of factors, King said.

"Ski seasons in Steamboat, Utah, and California all started late," he said. "Although some of them ended on time, the season also ended early in some places, particularly in the Northeast. If you look at the numbers for the industry as a whole, weather really tells the tale."

Among ASC's resorts, Steamboat was a bright spot.

"Steamboat displayed strong growth in visitation as well as per capita spending despite a down year for the Colorado market as a whole," Otten stated.

King agreed.

"No question Steamboat is a very important resort for ASC," he said. In addition to Steamboat, Heavenly in California and Killington in Vermont are the company's three largest resorts.

Although total skier visits through the three quarters of the fiscal 2000 were down for American Skiing overall, Steamboat's total skier visits were up over last year's third-quarter numbers.

Nationwide, American Skiing's skier visits through April 30 totaled 5,089,876. This year they totaled 5,006,431 visits.

In Steamboat, skier numbers were up from last year's 1,013,254 to this year's 1,024,832.

"It's because Steamboat got a lot of first snows that missed the Front Range," King said.

Still, Diamond said, it's important to put the numbers in perspective.

"The increase in skier visits isn't necessarily great news," he said, "because last year's was the worst total in the past 10 years."

Nationwide, American Skiing recorded approximately 80,000 fewer skier visits during the '99-'00 season than during the previous year.

Diamond attributed the shrinkage to retiring Baby Boomer skiers and the unusually warm weather.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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