Mild Winter Costing Vermont Cash

Vermont's unusual winter is having significant impacts on the state, the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, said this week.

Shumlin, who chalks up this season’s milder-than-average temperatures and less-than-typical snowfall to climate change, expressed concern about the unusual weather.

"This isn't looking so good for us," Shumlin said Wednesday. "The mountains are struggling. Our receipts--our tax receipts--are seeing a direct hit from the fact we're not bringing 4-million skiers in this year. We're bringing a lesser amount. That could change, but it's got to change mighty fast."

Figures from Vermont's Agency of Administration showing the most recent tax collections that are often used as a measuring stick for the health of the tourism sector appear to reflect these weather challenges.

Meals and rooms receipts were soft, off target by about $380,000 according to data from January. Sales and use taxes for January were off target by more than $3.2-million, the administration's report showed.

Administration Secretary Justin Johnson said, "Based on the unseasonably warm weather and its impact on our tourism activity, it is not a surprise our consumption taxes underperformed for the month resulting in a slight under performance."

Johnson noted revenues from the personal income tax and corporate tax helped make up for the disappointments in the two consumption tax areas.

The milder temperatures are having other impacts, too, including to the state's logging industry, according to Michael Snyder, the commissioner of the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation.

"We rely on good, cold, firm soil conditions in the winter for good logging," Snyder explained. "Shortened winters, weather like this, is really detrimental to the working lands of Vermont."

Moose are struggling, too, wildlife officials said. Winter ticks, which are aided by warmer temperatures, are feasting on the big animals, whose thick coats can be burdens.

"Any days during the winter that are over about 23 degrees can have a heat stress impact on moose," said Louis Porter, the commissioner of the Fish & Wildlife Department. "Anybody who's been in Vermont this winter knows we've had a number of those days this year."

Meanwhile, ski resorts are making a lot of snow to help improve conditions for skiing and riding.

Additionally, Parker Riehle of the trade group Ski Vermont said he hopes a high-profile event in Boston Thursday and Friday may provide a promotional boost to Vermont’s ski industry. The Polartec Big Air event at Fenway Park features a 140-foot high snow ramp, which is taller than the light towers at the famous ballpark.

Ski Vermont has a visible presence at the event, Riehle said, aiming to encourage people in the core drive market of Boston to make a trip to Vermont in the remaining time in this ski season.

Polartec Big Air is a U.S. Grand Prix and International Ski Federation World Cup Competition, with many top names in the world of winter sports taking part, including Olympic snowboarder Ty Walker from Stowe.

Snowmakers from Killington Resort are on hand, too, for the Boston event, responsible for managing the snow surfaces throughout the competition.

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