No business like snow business

MANCHESTER - The winter season's first major snowfall came last Thursday and after a relatively dismal winter last year - at least in terms of snow accumulation - local businesses in the area were happy to welcome skiers and snowboarders down from the mountain.

It was the first major winter storm Vermont has had in more than two years and Manchester saw a noticeable upsurge in traffic.

"It certainly puts a smile on everybody's face that I know," said executive director of the Manchester and the Mountains Chamber of Commerce, Berta Maginniss.

No snowfall typically means fewer tourists, but so far, this year has been the exact opposite.

"It is good to see, it makes everybody very optimistic for the season," said Maginniss. "I think we started off with a decent retail season. But overall people seem to be okay and I just think the snow prolongs all of that."

The Chamber has been hosting the Manchester Merriment, a program of events designed to help provide tourists and locals alike with things to do during the holiday season.

Hotels in the area such as The Equinox Resort and Spa have noticed a change from last year to this year and what visitors are doing with their time. Gerry McFarland, director of sales and marketing at the Equinox, said that the hotel gets seasonal guests that come back year after year and there is minor fluctuation when the weather changes, but that it is always good to have heavy snowfall in our area.

"People have been enjoying this year with the snowfall, but we at the Equinox get visitors regardless. The snow helps in the fact that it gives our visitors more things to do during their stay and that is always a good thing," he said.

For local ski areas such as Stratton this snowfall was very welcomed after last years dull winter.

Meryl Robinson, communication coordinator at Stratton Mountain Resort, said that this much snow is always a good thing and really makes it feel like winter.

"Last year at this time we had only 33 trails open and only five to six inches of accumulated snowfall," she said. "This year we have 88 trails open and have accumulated two and a half feet of snow." This amount of snow attracts more people to get out and ski, which is something Stratton did not have a lot of last year.

"This year we have had a mountain full of giddy skiers and snowboarders who have not seen this much snow in a long time," said Robinson.

Even with the large amount of snowfall Stratton still makes there own snow for a better quality of riding, said Robinson.

With this snowfall it is expected that winter items sales would be on the rise as more people prepare to be out in the cold.

Ann Houser, part owner of The Mountain Goat which specializes in the sales of winter clothing, is happy that the snowfall occurred when it did.

"The snowfall is great for us, it puts us right where we need to be," she said. "The snow creates a healthy snow industry which really helps everyone."

Houser said that although last year did not provide much snowfall they had a decent December, but it was their worst winter in terms of equipment sales. This year, along with the snowfall, she expects to have an increase in sales throughout the winter.

In other snowfall related news, the roundabout had no difficulties with the plowing situation which was a small concern during the building process, according the John O'Keefe, town manager of Manchester.

"The roundabout plowing situation is not unlike the roundabout up near Shaw's so it is something we were used to," he said.


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