Praying for snow

Tuesday October 9, 2012

We may be jumping the (snow) gun here a little bit, but we’re hearing this winter could be as snowy as the 2010/2011 winter.

After last year’s dismal snowfall, we are hoping beyond hope for the region’s ski areas and the businesses that rely on ski season that the forecasters are correct.

Last winter was the fourth warmest for the Lower 48 since record keeping began in 1895, with 24 states experiencing less-than-average snowfall, according to the Farmers’ Almanac.

But this year could be different, states the Almanac, with Northeast weather predicted to be cold and snowy.

AccuWeather, which got last year pretty much all wrong, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also predicting a much snowier winter.

(Stratton reported a dusting of snow on its slopes Monday night.)

Sure, excessive snowfall isn’t much fun for commuters and pedestrians, and shoveling the sidewalk can be hard on the back, but the ski industry is essential to the long-term economic health of Vermont; just ask any business owner who suffered through last winter.

In the past five years, Vermont ski areas have averaged 4.4 million visits, placing it third in sales in all of the nation, behind Colorado and California.

According to the Vermont Ski Areas Association, those skiers and boarders dropped $750 million into the state’s economy and employed 12,000 people. According to the VSAA, ski-related jobs add another 22,000 to the employment count.

Vermont has 18 ski resorts with 1,136 trails and 5,636 skiable acres, saw an average of 4.3 million skier visits per year over the past five years.

According to a paper written by Tun Lin and colleagues, skiers and boarders spend up to $323 for every day they spend in Vermont. Many of them don’t come for just one day of skiing, and stay at hotels and bed and breakfasts.

According to Tun Lin, 50 percent of Vermont’s lodging facilities have 10 rooms or less and the majority of them make local purchases, keeping much of the money right here at home.

In total, outdoor recreation generates $2.5 billion a year in retail sales and services in Vermont, according to the Outdoor Industry Foundation, and $180 million in taxes.

We have our fingers crossed that the forecasters are right, that the snow falls heavy and often and that skiers and boarders flock to the slopes. Following Tropical Storm Irene and last year’s winter, the revenue from a great ski season could be just what the doctor ordered.


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