Snowfall boosts winter-dependent Vt. businesses

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December 9, 2013, 7:40 pm
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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, Vt.) - While Monday's snowfall will not go down as a significant weather event for the state of Vermont, several businesses said its timing will be helpful in jump-starting spending on holiday gifts and decorations.

"It puts you in the mood already," said Kevin O'Brien of Shelburne, Vt., referring to the snowy Monday he spent picking out the perfect Christmas tree at Gardener's Supply in Williston. "It's nice to have a Christmas feel about going out to do something."

The same weather that put O'Brien in the spirit may have caused some problems, like slickening the roads, but businesses seemed to be doing well. "It's a little jump-start; gets everybody starting to think about it," Chris Remsen of Gardener's Supply said of the connection between the snowfall and Christmas errands.

Ski Vermont, the trade organization representing the state's downhill and cross-country destinations, told New England Cable News it heard anecdotal evidence that the snowfall across many of Vermont's critical drive markets was translating into advance lift ticket and season pass sales. That comes just in time for gift-giving, Parker Riehle of Ski Vermont said. "It's just a real psychological boost for us," Riehle said. "Any snow at all just gets people fired up."

Ski Vermont said this reminder from the skies to visitors that it's time again for winter sports comes on the heels of more resorts than ever being able to open before Thanksgiving, thanks to big investments in snowmaking coverage. Approximately 80 percent of the state's downhill terrain is now covered by snowmaking, Riehle said.

"When you have an early start, again, like we had with that pre-Thanksgiving opening, the kind of snowfall we're seeing, and those investments in snowmaking-- in some cases, several million dollars over the last few years-- people are saying, 'Ok, this is going to be another good year [for skiing], so I have to go out and get my pass.'"

This winter, Vermont hopes to improve on a near-record 2012-2013 ski season. Ski Vermont said in June that skiers and boarders made more than 4.51 million visits to Vermont resorts last season. That represented a 16 percent increase over the 2011-2012 season, and was the most passes sold in over a decade. The total narrowly missed the best season on record since the Vermont Ski Areas Association started collecting data in 1992. Skiers and boarders can spend more than $700-million in Vermont each season, Riehle said.

At Frog Hollow on Burlington's Church Street Marketplace, gallery manager Ruby Houston told NECN she was glad the snow was enough to kick-start the holiday spirit, but not so much that it kept people home and away from buying artisan crafts for presents. "It certainly has that feeling of the holidays," Houston said of a snowy Church Street. "The closer we'll get [to Christmas], the busier we'll be."

Houston said the busiest days for her and for most retailers will be the weekend before Christmas.

Tags: weather, snow, vermont, Burlington, Ski Vermont, Jack Thurston, weather stories, snowfall and business Vermont
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