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Joyce Endee

Despite slow start, businesses have high hopes for season

While some people are missing the deep snows of winter, others, like this group on Hermit Lake in Sanbornton, are taking advantage of the great conditions for ice skating. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
January 18, 2012
REGION — Winter has arrived, but the slow start in snowfall has left some businesses a bit concerned.

Others, like Gunstock Mountain Resort marketing director Bill Quigley, said a recent snowfall, the first in 2012, was a plus, and he remains optimistic for a good year on the slopes.

"A little snow before the Martin Luther King Holiday is always a bonus," Quigley said last week.

Typically, skiers in southern regions who don't see snow in their own back yards forget about the abilities of snow making crews, as snow falls almost nightly on the trails of Gunstock Mountain and other New Hampshire ski areas.

"We've invested money in our snow making capabilities, and it's really paying off. We're pushing the (snowmaking) guns up to the summit now, and it's giving us some great runs and aiding all of our programs here at Gunstock," Quigley said.

Quigley said he had spoken recently with local hotels who were glad to see the latest snowfall, and hoped to up their revenues with more skiers coming to the Lakes Region.

"The winter has been slow, but hopefully, we'll all see a bump (in the economy) with new snow on the ground. It will certainly help," he said.

Another local establishment which has not felt an impact from the lack of natural snow is Shooters Tavern in Belmont. Owners Mike and Tammy said they regularly see a lot of snowmobilers at their Route 3 eatery and pub, but weather is not a key to their success.

"It hasn't been affecting us, really. We cater to the local crowds, and they come here whether it be in a car or on a snowmobile," said Mike.

Actually, he noted, his numbers have been up since November, and he and his wife were looking forward to a great crowd for the upcoming football playoffs and Super Bowl.

Some other trailside stops, such as the Sanbornton General Store on Route 127, have not been as fortunate. While the general store also has a loyal customer base, snow brings in many additional customers looking for gas, drinks, hot foods or snacks they can take with them on the miles of trails that crisscross the woods of Sanbornton. This year, the lack of snow has made a noticeable difference.

"There's been a big impact on our store," said employee Brenda Plummer. "We don't have skiers typically coming through Sanbornton, so we rely on the snowmobilers. It's been a lot slower than usual here."

Prospects for more snow are yet to be seen, but Jeremy Bilodeau of the Belmont Bogie Busters snowmobile club said his fellow club members are lamenting over the lack of "white gold," even after the recent snowfall. The trails are clear, the equipment is ready but clubs throughout central New Hampshire are still awaiting the necessary snow to get their machines out and about.

"It's still not happening. We got about five inches of snow from this storm (in Belmont), but we need at least a foot of snow to get the trails going," Bilodeau said last weekend.

Not only are there no current opportunities to get out and enjoy the sport he loves, but revenues are also down.

"People haven't been registering their snowmobiles, and memberships in a lot of clubs are down from what I understand," he said. "But, it is what it is, and we'll just hope for more snow soon."

Shopping, however, is an activity that knows no season. The Tilton Tanger Outlet Center's general manager, Eric Proulx, said stores are open, parking lots are clear, and most of all, walkways are covered, making it convenient to stroll the plaza and stop in the many stores, no matter what the weather may be.

"Shopping for Winter savings is always in style at Tanger Outlets in Tilton, said Proulx. "Naturally, when we have a winter with less snow, that does benefit us, giving shoppers easier access and making shopping more convenient."

He added that historically, the heavy snowstorms slow shopping down, but his crews promptly tend to the parking lots and roadways within the center to provide safety and ease of access for their customers. With mainly cold temperatures to deal with, people are out and about and, like Tanger, other stores and shopping centers seem to be feeling no ill effects of the below average snowfall.

After an unseasonably warm start to the winter, fishermen are enjoying the recent cold temperatures as ice forms on ponds and lakes and bob houses are cropping up on frozen waterways. Skaters have also been out on the ice gliding the open surfaces of ponds and lake bays but with much open water still found in the region, caution is the key to a safe and successful day on the lakes.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
Garnett HIll
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