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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ski business bounces back at the Peak

For a few weeks in December, the winter of 2012-2013 was looking like a repeat of the one that came before.

That possibility had Erie-based Scott Enterprises, owner of Peek'n Peak Resort and Spa in Findley Lake, N.Y., feeling a bit apprehensive.

But now, with more than a month left in the ski season, Chris N. Scott, vice president and co-owner of Scott Enterprises, said it's clear that's not going to be the case.

The number of skiers to visit the resort is up about 40 percent so far this ski season.

Scott credits an expanded advertising campaign. He also credits investing between $4 million and $5 million in the resort.

But more than anything else, he credits the return of traditional winter weather and the 86 inches of snow that have fallen in the area this year.

"The peak is doing substantially better than last year, and the weather has been a huge help," Scott said.

Even snow-making equipment could help only so much last year, the first winter season after Scott bought the resort out of bankruptcy.

Although there was still man-made snow on the ground, Scott Enterprises shut down the ski lifts on March 21, 2012, about 10 days ahead of schedule.

"You can advertise all you want," he said. "But if it's 50 degrees and raining, no one is coming."

After being bitten by 2011/12's unseasonably mild weather, the current ski season got off to a slow start. The significance of opening eight days later than usual was lost on no one, Scott said.

"There was an uncomfortable feeling of wondering, 'is this going to happen again?'" he said. "We were already opening behind the year before, which was a very poor ski season."

It didn't take record snowfall to set things right at the Peak.

"All we needed was a typical Erie winter," Scott said.

The combination of natural snowfall and machine-made snow has helped build a snow base of about 48 inches.

In fact, there's enough snow on the ground to allow the facility to shut down its snow-making equipment, Scott said.

He and the rest of the resort's management aren't worrying too much that global warming might make it difficult to do business in the future.

"I never really bought into global warming as a fact, though I think there might be some changing weather patterns around the world."

What he doesn't expect is for those changing weather patterns to render useless the investment his family-owned company has made in the ski business.

"I find it hard to believe that last year is going to be typical."

Colder, snowier weather isn't the only thing that helped make this ski season more successful.

Public support, in the form of comments, season-ticket sales and Facebook chatter all suggest enthusiasm for the Peak and its future, Scott said.

"Even though it (the resort) is in New York, the support from Erie has been really superb," he said.

JIM MARTIN can be reached at 870-1668 or by e-mail.

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