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Monday, December 08, 2008

Area Ski Resorts Experience Early-Season Success

By Dennis Phillips,
POSTED: December 8, 2008

With an increase in early winter snow, an economy keeping people closer to home and gas prices surprisingly decreasing, area ski resorts are already seeing record business this season.
''It's been great for us. It's been incredible,'' said Jane Eshbaugh, Holiday Valley director of marketing. ''We had a record November. We are exceeding our wildest dreams.''
Ms. Eshbaugh said the resort opened nine days earlier - Nov. 20 - than its ideal target date and a month and a half earlier than the average winter season.
''The snow played a huge part, we got 28 inches on Nov. 16-17 with the forecast good for more snow, so that made us open up early,'' she said. ''We have natural snow and we're making snow. We've recorded, since Nov. 17, 75 inches of snow so far this year.''
Holiday Valley isn't the only resort enjoying the early snow fall. Cockaigne Ski Area in Cherry Creek is also enjoying a rise in early winter business.
''Compared to last year, we're doing pretty good. Last year was a real disaster,'' said Linda Johnson, promotions director. ''We're feeling lucky - fantastic skiing and lots of snow.''
Ms. Johnson said even though last year's ski season ended well for the ski resort, snow early in the season is a real key for the business.
''You have to have it at the beginning of the season. You don't make up later what you lose in the beginning of the season,'' she said. ''The snow gets people out. Saying you got 10 feet of snow - if people don't look out their windows and see it at home they don't believe it.''
Ms. Johnson said even the national economy has not had a negative impact on the business. In fact, she said the decrease in gas prices has helped.
''Probably the best thing that has happened is gas prices going down,'' she said. ''We get a lot of people from Ohio where (gas) is a dollar cheaper. That makes a big difference.''
Ms. Johnson said Cockaigne's pre-paid business is doing well, which came as a surprise given the economy.
''I thought it would be a disaster, but that hasn't been the case,'' she said. ''We're trying to figure out what will happen, but everyone seems upbeat and wants to get out and ski.''
Ms. Eshbaugh said Holiday Valley also has not been impacted negatively by the economy.
''Yes we have seen an impact, but it's a positive impact,'' she said. ''People have decided to stay closer to home to avoid the expense and hassle of traveling.''
Even local ski shops where people buy their skis and winter attire haven't been affected. Les Johnson, owner of Hollyloft Ski & Bike on Fairmount Avenue in Jamestown, said the early snow fall has helped business so far this winter.
''We're about the same as last year. So, with today's economy and all the bad news flying around, the weather helps make up for the lack of dollars,'' he said. ''Our fall business was up, mostly because of the early snow.''
Peek'n Peak in Findley Lake has received 51 inches of natural snow in the last week and is also open for business. Snowmaking operations continue around the clock when temperatures permit. More trails and lifts will open soon.

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