Snowstorm means jolt to the local economy
BRATTLEBORO -- Meteorologically, it might not be the perfect storm, but economically Thursday's projected snow fall might be just what Vermont is looking for to add a little bump to the economy.
With schools closed, tourists up for the holidays and last season's disappointing winter still on everyone's minds, Burrows Specialized Sports owner Bob Woodworth said a good dump in the days after Christmas can kick off what he hopes will be a long, cold and white winter.
"It sounds like something is coming tonight and we are looking forward to it," Woodworth said on Wednesday. "Even those people who don't like snow have to root for this and what it will do for the Vermont economy."
Woodworth, who has been selling winter gear on Main Street in Brattleboro for more than two decades, said winter sports enthusiasts can experience a hangover, of sorts, after a winter like we had last year.
People are hesitant to upgrade after a warm, dry winter, he said, and newcomers might be unwilling to purchase snow shoes and cross country equipment after very little snow fell last year.
But a good solid base of snow, which meteorologists are predicting for Thursday, should go a long way toward forgetting last season and looking forward to a cold and snowy winter.
"After a year like last year people hold back," he said. "Last winter was a bust and we need something like this to forget that. People are excited about getting out and playing in the snow."
The major storm, which has already slammed the South and Midwest, was heading right for Vermont Wednesday, and The National Weather Service said the snow would start in southern Vermont Wednesday night and continue right through Thursday.
Some of the higher elevations in the region are expected to see more than a foot of snow before the storm moves on.
Stratton Mountain Communications Coordinator Meryl Robinson also said the storm is coming at almost the perfect time.
Families who spent Christmas at home were able to enjoy the holiday and then travel Wednesday to the mountain.
Robinson said Stratton could get more than a foot of snow, and with about 75 percent of the mountain already open due to man-made snow making, she said conditions should be peaking out during one of the busiest times of the year.
"We have a lot of loyal customers who joined us for the holidays, and this is about the best gift we can give them," she said. "It looks like it is going to be a busy week."
"After last year people are going to want to come up and get this while it is here," said Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce Director Jerry Goldberg. "A good, pure, white snowfall is just what the doctor ordered for this economy. It reminds people what a winter wonderland Brattleboro is in the winter."
All over Brattleboro Wednesday, supermarket lines were long, people filled their gas tanks, and hardware stores moved piles of shovels, scrapers and salt and sand.
"People hunker down and go nuts," said Goldberg. "It's time to make sure you have boots and mittens and food. It is good for the economy."
About a third of Vermont's annual tourism revenue is generated from winter business, according to Tourism and Marketing Department Communications Director Jun Butson, and this week is one the three busiest periods of the season.
When weather reports call for significant snowfall during a holiday week like this, it can have a significant impact on restaurants, inns and hotels, outdoor outfitters and ski mountains across the state.
"This mid-holiday season snowstorm is very good news for the ski and ride industry and all the businesses related to it," Butson said. "Nothing sends the message, ‘It's a winter wonderland' better than Mother Nature laying down over a foot of fresh powder in our mountains."
Butson said the weather predictions are also encouraging cross country skiers, snowshoers, and snow mobile owners to dust off their equipment, which largely remained in the closets and garages last year, and get out.
"This is great news for everyone who visits Vermont in the winter," she said. "This storm is bringing ideal conditions for the New Year."
Brattleboro Public Works Director Steve Barrett said his crews were putting chains on tires and loading up on salt and sand all day Wednesday in anticipation of the storm.
Barrett also said the storm's timing is good because with the schools closed the department can concentrate on the roads throughout town.
When school is in session the department has to think about bus routes and school access when clearing the roads.
He said sometimes the roads can be more hazardous during the first storm because drivers have put off getting snow tires and are unfamiliar with driving conditions.
And the holiday week means there are more visitors, but he said the plows will be out all night so people can get out and enjoy all the snow.
"Bring it on," Barrett said. "This is Vermont. We love this."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.
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