Tis the season for winter tourism

By KBJR News 1

November 30, 2013 Updated Dec 18, 2013 at 10:28 AM CDT

Beaver Bay, MN (NNCNOW.COM)

A four season state like Minnesota relies on its natural beauty, and opportunities, to fuel the nearly 12 billion dollar tourism industry it produces.

But winter most of all is vulnerable to uncooperative weather, which could mean dismal business for the state's retailers that depend on it.

For ski resorts like Spirit Mountain, in Duluth, a consistent cold snap since early November has allowed the resort to improve their chances of having a successful winter season on a near–nightly basis.

"Spirit Mountain has been able to make snow for ski runs, for the skiers and snowboarders," says Gene Shaw, Public Relations for Visit Duluth.

Prime weather conditions have allowed the ski hill to open two weeks earlier than last year, making it the earliest open for the resort in almost two decades.

According to Shaw, it's a promising sign for the region's winter tourism which is 24 percent of the state's $11.9 billion tourism industry.

"...snowmobiling, cross county skiing, snowshoeing, and bird watching— there's a lot of birds around here. There's always that other sport that goes on almost every weekend... called youth hockey. It's just a great winter destination."

It's that idea of being a winter destination that keeps retailers like Beaver Bay Sports, along the North Shore, in business during sub–zero temps.

According to owner Cindy Wartman, 65 percent of their sales are done in the winter.

"Snow makes the world go round for us. We rent snowmobiles, we work on snowmobiles, we sell snowmobiles, we do Ski–doo and Polaris and it makes a big difference brining the tourists up on the North Shore."

Last year's record–breaking snowfall in May allowed the Minnesota DNR a chance to keep state trails open to the public a month after they typically close.

That meant more tourists were extending their trips, and pocketbooks, to the area even if it didn't necessarily reflect in Wartman's bottom dollar.

"You had a lot of people still riding the trails, however, it wasn't all that fantastic for sales because the season was pretty much done," says Wartman.

Even if the snowmobiles weren't flying off the shelves in May, however, hotels and restaurants along the North Shore were more than happy to take in the extra late–season business.

So far, Giants Ridge Ski Resort, in Biwabik, is reporting that nine percent, or three, of their ski runs are open... along with two chairlifts. As of Wednesday, Dec. 18, 51 runs are open out of 94 total runs at Lutsen, and the remaining slopes should be open closer to Christmas.

Posted to the web by Billy Wagness