With Epic Pass sales booming, Vail plans to add more fine dining, family fun to Park City Mountain Resort

( Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo ) Vail Resorts will use some of the money it's reaping from increased Epic Pass sales to enhance dining options at Park City Mountain and to develop a "beginner and family learning zone" on the Canyons side of the resort.

Boosted by this fall’s sale of 740,000 Epic season passes, Vail Resorts said it is planning to use some of the incoming revenue to enhance dining experiences at Park City Mountain Resort and to make the resort even more family friendly.

“We will continue our transformational investments with a focus on enhancing the family, food and service experience for our guests from around the world,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said in the company’s financial report for the quarter ending Oct. 31.

Cloud Dine, an on-mountain restaurant near the tops of the Dreamcatcher and Dreamscape chairlifts, will be expanded by 200 seats.

The Mid-Mountain Lodge, near the base of Pioneer and McConkey’s lifts, will be renovated and upgraded to, in Katz’s words, “create a signature dining experience that will bring fine-dine quality cuisine to what we expect will be one of the premier fast-casual, on-mountain restaurants in the industry.”

In addition, he said, Vail Resorts will replace the fixed-grip High Meadows chairlift with a high-speed four-seater on the Canyons side of the mountain and will do some grading work and improve the snowmaking system to develop a “world-class beginner and family learning zone.”

The report did not specify how much money Vail Resorts will invest in Park City Mountain Resort next year (after $50 million in 2015), noting that a complete capital spending plan for 2018 will be disclosed in March. But Vail’s quarterly report said Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia will get a $42 million upgrade.

Funding is available, Katz said, because “sales of our season passes continue to deliver outstanding results.”

Sales of the Epic pass, which can be used at Vail resorts throughout North America and at Perisher in Australia, were up 14 percent by number and 20 percent in sales dollars over the past winter, he noted. The increase partially reflects Vail Resort’s acquisition in the past year of Whistler Blackcomb and its first East Coast ski area, Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont.

“It’s clear that the addition of Whistler Blackcomb and Stowe have further strengthened our network and the appeal of our season pass to destination guests in North America and around the world,” Katz said.

Expecting the weather to cooperate soon and deliver much-needed snow to the mountains, he is confident Vail Resorts will overcome a typically slow summer.

The company lost $28.4 million from August through Oct. 31, down from $62.6 million in the same period a year earlier.

Part of the improvement was due to a tax benefit taken by Vail Resorts, but Katz said it also was driven by increased summer visitation to its four Colorado resorts and “robust” summer activities at Whistler Blackcomb.

Also helping the bottom line was a 6 percent growth in the average daily rate charged this past summer by the Grand Teton Lodge Co., a Vail subsidiary that runs Jackson Lake Lodge in Wyoming and multiple campgrounds on nearby Colter Bay.