I just learned a neat fact today. Did you know last winter $2.1 billion was spent on tourism?** Yes, billion with a “B”. It’s a bigger number than I would have guessed! Now, break that number down over the season, and on average, tourists spent about $20 million per day. Wow! Last season, that kind of green during a period of white certainly put a smile on many business that depend on winter tourism.
I’ll admit: I like mild weather, but I love the snow too. However, after a few cold and snowy winters, I thought the recent mild patterns were a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, my thoughts aren’t exactly helpful to businesses that depend on winter tourism. When I look outside the window (blog post written pre-snowfall), I don’t really think of winter. I think of spring, and spring activities like jogging, biking, prepping the garden, etc. I’m sure many of you think of spring too. Yes, the physical lack of snow has hit some winter recreation businesses hard. But one has to admit the brown ground doesn’t help the mood! Many businesses are open, pleading with people to come enjoy what they have to offer.
Let me give you a real life example. My uncle, a ski instructor at a ski hill in northwest Wisconsin, wrote me an email, telling me they were open for business. A paraphrased version, here’s what he wrote:
“We are 100% open to skiing, snowboarding, and snowtubing! Also, the crosscounty skiers are using the 12 miles of trail that is north of the hill. So pass this on to whoever needs to see it. It would make a great story on the nightly news that “YES” we still have winter. Send them up!”
His ski hill, like most, makes their own snow. In fact, the latest report states a 22″ base will all lifts running and nearly all trails open. You could never guess that just by looking outside.
There’s plenty of natural snow in Wisconsin too; you just have to know where to find it. Since December 1st, Eau Claire has only received 7.7″ of snow. Did you know in the same time frame, Hurley, WI has accumulated 30.0″? Neighbor Eagle River hasn’t done too bad too, though much less – 16.5″. Of course, these two locations are in far northern Wisconsin, in the Lake Superior snowbelt. They typically receive 55″ to 65″ per year, about half credited to lake-effect snow.
I had a nice phone conversation with a representative from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism this morning. She told me they are “not too worried yet,” and that the tourism industry in Wisconsin is quite resilient. She stated many small businesses have done a good job adapting to mild and dry weather streaks, offering additional products or unique promotions. She said it’s the hotels, restaurants, snack shops – businesses of that nature – that have taken the biggest hit. Think of it…if you’re a skier and you stop for snacks along the way or to gas up…it makes a difference!
Now, to find those snowshoes…looks like I’ll have to get the ladder! Thanks for reading and safe travels tonight and tomorrow. The roads will be icy. Stay tuned for more from Beyond the Forecast…
**Figure provided by Wisconsin Department of Tourism
This post was written by Nick Grunseth on January 11, 2012