The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 29, 2013

White Christmas brings in the green

Most profitable weeks for West Virginia ski resorts are around holidays

By Andrea Lannom
Charleston Daily Mail

— A certain two weeks are big moneymakers for state ski resorts and so far, it’s looking strong.

In fact, ski resorts may make 35 to 40 percent of their budget in the week leading up to Christmas, the week of Christmas and the week after, said Joe Stevens, communications director for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association.

“For reservations for the holiday, we’re very strong, very positive,” Stevens said. “There are still openings here and there but everyone’s reporting good reservation numbers.”

According to a news release from the West Virginia Ski Areas Association, about 800,000 skiers visit West Virginia each year during the ski season, which typically runs Thanksgiving to early March.

The association says ski season brings in more than $250 million to the state’s economy and creates 5,000 jobs at resorts and related companies.

The reason this time typically is the busiest, Stevens says, is because resorts can “guarantee a white Christmas.”

Jason Hough was one of the skiers who traveled in during the busiest time of the year. Last weekend, Hough and his friends made a daytrip from Scottdale, Pa., to Snowshoe.

“It’s busy but it’s just a convenient time to be off work and have time to head down,” the avid skier said.

Although Hough said there are resorts closer to him, he likes Snowshoe the best. He made his first trip to the resort last year and loves to ski down the Western Territory trails.

Some resorts opened earlier than usual but Stevens said in terms of numbers, it’s been a traditional opening.

Plus, many have been able to keep up the pace with opening trails. Stevens says this progression of slope openings is important for holiday business.

“A lot of times, they opened up with a flurry and digressed some,” Stevens said. “You will get some milder temperatures and we will lose a couple of slopes, regroup and rebuild.

It’s not just the slopes that make a difference, though.

Also critical is the opening of snowtubing parks, which resorts like Snowshoe, Winterplace and Canaan have been able to do.

When resorts first open, Stevens say this is the time for more experienced or traditional skiers and snowboarders or what he dubs, “PUD,” or pent up demand.

“They are ready to hit the slopes as soon as possible.”

The holidays are a bit different with more families coming in as well.

Of course, most of the people coming in for the holidays are from the traditional pool of states, such as Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

There also are many people from overseas taking vacations from jobs in D.C., Stevens said.

After these weeks, the next busiest times are the three-day weekends of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day.

Stevens said although these weekends are strong, the holiday period is critical for state resorts.

“Reservations are coming in for those weekends,” he said. “They’re huge group weekends. There are ski groups and school groups, companies putting together groups because of the three day weekends. They’re filling up without a doubt.

For updated ski information, visit goskiwv. com.