Businesses bustle despite lack of snow |

Businesses bustle despite lack of snow

Kristen Lodgeklodge@skyhidailynews.comGrand County, CO Colorado
Photo Courtesy of SolVista Basin

Most tourist-related businesses here thrived during the holiday weeks, and some are even seeing better numbers compared to last year. Holiday guests are not as snow-driven, according to Mistalynn Lee, spokesperson for Winter Park Resort.”The guests who are here over the holidays – too much snow is difficult to ski in – they prefer views to cloudy, snowy days. They enjoy snowmobile tours, ice skating, tubing and all of the other wonderful community activities,” she said.”They may be coming from an area that receives little-to-no snow, and looking at the mountain, it is snowy. They may not have the same frame of reference that we as locals have for snow totals.”Holiday visitors come for the family vacation and skiing is just a part of that.Winter fun”Guests are telling me they are having a lot of fun here even without snow,” said Stephanie Best owner of Black Tie Ski Rental Delivery. “One guest said to me, ‘I guess there is no tree skiing, right?,’ I replied, ‘Just work on your turns on the groomers. Make sure you have a good edge.'”Best said her business is up from last year. She believes Christmas guests come regardless of conditions. But some of her holiday skis are coming back with repairs needed due to damage to the bases. While she remains nervous about January, Best is doing better compared to this time last year.Yet, “If we don’t start getting snow, I’m going to start getting cancellations.”Snow sweatLocal business owners who rely on snow, such as Jeff Johnston of The Roofing Company, are worried. Snow removal is 10 percent of total revenue at the Roofing Company, Johnston said.”With the slow economy and slow construction, the lack of snow is putting a dent in our business. We have a lot of major contracts so the lack of snow is a huge problem,” he said.The Roofing Company is looking out of state for additional contracts and working on its repair division in order to offset lost revenue.”A couple big snow storms can bring us back,” he said. Tim Johnson is chief of operations of the Western Slope for Diamond Excavating. After living in Grand county and having businesses for 35 years, he has learned to diversify. While the lack of snow hurts, he said, his company doesn’t rely solely on snow removal.Diamond Excavating has the contract for the Granby transfer station.”This business is going well,” he said. “There is plenty of trash. We don’t have to chain up the trucks so it’s cheaper and more efficient to transfer to the Front Range dumps.”He’s been taking four loads per day during the holidays just to keep up because there were so many people here. He is more concerned about how the lack of snow is hurting the entire Grand County economy.Zipping alongOn the Trail in Grand Lake, which rents out snowmobiles for guided and unguided tours, is doing well despite the lack of snow.”For the snow we had, we are pretty comparable to last year” said owner Nick Hanson. “Even today (Wednesday), I have 20 rentals out. That is a good weekday rental.”Hanson is hearing that Grand Lake has the best trail conditions in the country.”As long as it stays cold, our trails are rideable. There’s not a lot of powder, but I had 100 rentals out each day during Christmas.” Colorado Adventure Park in Fraser crushed its numbers from last year according to Manager Mike Miller.”One day during the holiday week we were up 280 percent. It had to do with lack of snow, guests not wanting to spend money skiing, and we are cheaper.”While the tubing park doesn’t have snowmaking capabilities, it does have equipment to move snow around and groom.”It’s slowing down now,” Miller said, “but still steady through the day.”Miller said the company is doing more advertising this year with coupons and creating Groupon specials. They are also booking bigger reservations with church groups sporadically through the season, which has kept them busy.The next courseRestaurants in the county did well over the holiday, but overall, owners are worried about January.Fontenot’s is up in sales compared to last year, and owner Chris Moore is happy with business. However, due to Christmas falling on Sunday, it cut things short, he said.”We’ve been here 22 years, and have never seen snow conditions this bad, but people are coming out to eat.” In Granby, Maverick’s Grille had a strong holiday season. Owner Sean Richardson attributes it to people staying the week after Christmas and advanced reservations.In January, he depends on local business, and after four years he has built a loyal local following.”Visitors find us through TripAdvisor and online reviews,” he said.Sagebrush BBQ in Grand Lake had a “great” holiday weekend, and an even better New Year’s Eve, according to Frances Transue, a waitress and bartender who worked during the holiday.”Our Friday crab specials and NFL package, coupled with TVs, helped,” she said. “A lot of couples got married over the holiday and came into the restaurant to celebrate.”She also attributes second-home owners in town who weren’t necessarily snowmobiling or skiing, just coming to spend time in Grand Lake. Also in Grand Lake, Never Summer Mountain Products is a retail shop that rents cross country ski and snowshoe rentals.”Business picked up between Christmas and New Year’s,” said Decker Randall, son of the owners who have been in Grand Lake for more than 30 years. “The days leading up to Christmas were far slower than we remember … not an improvement over last year,” he said. Winter Park Resort reported lodging occupancies in town were down over previous years; however, Central Reservations bookings overall, which includes Winter Park Resort Lodging properties, were slightly ahead of last year. Ski & Ride School reported an 11 percent decline compared to last season.’Love it here'”The decrease is in the upper level, more difficult skill-set lessons,” said Bob Barnes, Winter Park Resort Ski & Ride School director. “Those guests tend to make their lesson decisions based on snow totals more so than beginners.”Volunteer Resort Hosts recorded the following comments during the holiday week at the resort: “Weather was great, snow conditions better than expected;” “Really enjoy all the employees’ happy attitudes;” “No new snow but we still love it here.”The resort also received favorable comments about the dancing trees in the Village, ice skating with Santa, and s’mores by the fire pit in front of the Private Lesson Center. Winter Park Resort is looking forward to January, and Lee says the resort’s Competition Center has been receiving calls from ski clubs and racing clubs to discuss potential races or training. SolVista Basin had the best holiday on record, according to Marketing Manager Lisa Craig. Snowfall isn’t as much a factor since the slopes have fewer rocks, and grasses are mowed before the season, she said.”When we have a 16-inch base, that is a big deal. We can do a lot with a little.”The ski area is still making snow top-to-bottom and in the terrain parks. While SolVista Basin isn’t 100 percent open, all the lifts are open.During the holiday, Craig said families were enjoying the mountain skiing, sledding, tubing, and eating s’mores by the firepit. The resort added extra activities such as wagon rides with real horses, decorating cookies, and a skiing Santa who chased kids in the terrain park.”Guests were focusing on how much fun they were having, and we exceeded our expectations,” she said.Working outThe Grand Park Community Recreation Center was also very busy and added additional classes, including gymnastic, trampoline, and climbing wall classes.”New Year’s Eve was our biggest day,” said Susan Cahill Assistant Director of Recreation & Administration at the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District. “We called in extra lifeguards and the ice rink was very busy.”The recreation center is promoting a one-month pass card to locals and guests.”Tourist are using it if they are visiting for a week; it’s more cost-effective for families,” Cahill said.Based on attendance during the holiday, the recreation district is expecting a good winter.”We hope this holiday is indicative of people traveling,” she said Τhe Weather Channel shows a chance of snow today (Jan. 6) through Sunday, and next week Wednesday looks promising for snow said Ωιντερ Παρκ Ρεσορτ∏σ Λεε.”We are in an industry that relies on Mother Nature, and we remain optimistic about the storm that will turn this all around.”

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