Christmas Week and New Year's Eve weekend 2015 in Mt Washington Valley
NEWS FROM MT WASHINGTON VALLEY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE – January 5, 2015
Contact: Marti Mayne, 207-846-6331, PR@MtWashingtonValley.org
LACK OF SNOW LEADS TO LACKLUSTER HOLIDAY WEEK IN MT WASHINGTON VALLEY, NH
With some silver linings, businesses report challenging weather resulted in lackluster sales and traffic in the Valley during Christmas Week and New Year’s Eve.
North Conway, NH – Going into Christmas week with one of the warmest Decembers on record, business owners from all industry sectors in Mt Washington Valley shook their heads in despair. While some of the Valley’s ski resorts were able to make snow during colder days earlier in the month, the lack of snow in our visitors’ backyards had an evident impact on their holiday week vacation plans. Many businesses responding to an informal survey from the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce reported that Christmas week sales and traffic did not measure up to previous years. Yet, with the snowstorm that fell in the middle of the holiday week, New Year’s Eve business picked up in Mt Washington Valley, and some businesses actually showed increases in sales over last year. One consistent observation from businesses responding to the survey was that vacationing families were on the rise this holiday week, and helped to fill rooms, restaurants and stores. And with Yankee ingenuity so prevalent in the Valley, many businesses made lemonade from lemons and found ways to capitalize on the warmer weather with alternative offerings.
The Christmas vacation week kicks off the season for ski resorts, XC Centers, and winter recreation businesses. Unfortunately, the week started without snow on the ground and only four of the 13 ski resorts and XC Centers open in Mt Washington Valley. For snowmobile outfitters, this was tough, but Terry MacGillivray of Northeast Snowmobile and ATV Rentals in Gorham found a way to make it work. “We were very fortunate to be able to rent our Side by Side's until Monday the 29th out of our Gorham NH location,” said MacGillivray. “With the snow on Tuesday the phones started to ring. Wednesday. December 30th to Sunday, January 3rd we were able to recapture around 33-percent of last year’s vacation week revenue,” finished MacGillivray, referring to the guided snowmobile tours offered for the rest of the Christmas week.
Down the road, Peter Gagne, owner of Northern Extremes Snowmobling, found the glass half full when his prediction for a dismal holiday week turned out better than expected. “Northern Extremes Snowmobiling business was down 82-percent from last year but on a bright side it was up 1000-percent from my predictions on December 21,” said Gagne. “Going into the holiday week we had a record number of advance reservations but we cancelled all reservations from December 21 through January 3 with the 15-day forecast on December 20. We told people we had a better chance of winning Powerball than seeing a white Christmas. Even when Bartlett received 9 inches of snow on December 29th with no frost in the ground it wasn’t enough to open many trails,” finished Gagne. With Bear Notch Road open, Northern Extremes was able to offer one-hour guided tours to several groups from Columbia, England, Russia, Puerto Rico and Florida. Currently Bartlett is one of the few places open for snowmobiling in the state and both Northern Extremes and Northeast ATV and Snowmobile Rentals are offering guided snowmobile tours while terrain continues to hold up.
Charlene Browne, co-owner of Farm by the River Bed and Breakfast with Stables, reported that the stables were not iced out this year as they were last year during the Christmas week, so with the ability to offer carriage rides, wagon rides and horseback riding, their numbers were actually up over last year. Families enjoyed this outdoor activity during the warmer days around Christmas. A sleighride wedding on December 31st added to the festivities.
For ski resorts and XC Centers, the weather posed a huge challenge. Howie Wemyss, General Manager of the Mt Washington Auto Road and Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center told the chamber that they too made lemonade out of the lousy lemon-weather by offering a historic-first – guided tours on the Auto Road and Fat biking at Great Glen Trails in December. “It was quite a difference from last year to this for us. Last year we had snow early and kept it through Christmas week with one brief rainy period. This year we were pushing fatbiking as we waited for snow,” said Weymss. “This year, on December 26th we were able to run our conventional wheeled guided tours to treeline on the Mt Washington Auto Road, a historical first. Winter returned the next day and snow followed on Tuesday allowing us to open for skiing for the first time this winter. So we’re salvaging the last few days of the Christmas vacation week with very strong business, great early season skiing, SnowCoach tours and lots of happy guests,” finished Weymss.
On the ski resort front, Becca Deschenes, Marketing Director for Cranmore Mountain Resort, shared that skier visits were down 18-percent for the vacation week, but the Adventure Park visits were up 24-percent in admissions. “As we all know, it was a rough start to winter, but with the first measurable snowfall of the season, things seemed to go up,” confided Deschenes. “Cranmore was able to have many productive stretches of snowmaking weather, and that combined with the snow fall, allowed us to open up more terrain. We also kicked off the week with a super high energy Cranapalooza celebration,” she finished.
By January 1, twelve of the Valley’s 13 ski resorts and XC Centers were open. According to Kathy Zeiders, Office Manager at Black Mountain, “Black Mountain received around 8-inches of snow before the weekend so it did help out. We opened on January 1st, and we had a good turnout for the weekend.” Once the weather turned cold enough, snowmaking continued around the clock at the Valley’s ski resorts, and continues to run during the present cold weather, allowing the resorts to open more terrain all the time.
One exception to the grim reports came in from Steve Lambert at Bernerhof Inn B&B. According to Steve, the inn saw a ten-percent increase in occupancy for the holiday week in large part due to families with children over ten – a new demographic for the inn. A package including the Taste of the Mountains Cooking School and skiing sold out the inn for the last three days in December, and creative packages earlier in the month helped carried the business for December.
Jen Kovach, co-owner of Snowvillage Inn reported that the lack of snow had an impact on last-minute getaway planning. “Snowvillage Inn occupancy was down for New Year’s Eve weekend. During the week however, we found more families spending time with us. They stayed three to five days, eating with at the inn each night,” shared Kovach, which helped fill the inn during Christmas Week.
Christopher Bellis, co-owner of Cranmore Inn Bed & Breakfast reported that Christmas Week numbers were down about 15-percent in reservations and revenue, yet the inn was sold-out for New Year’s Eve. “The first weekend of the year was much softer than last year due to the timing of the holiday. A number of families left on January 2nd and did not stay through the entire weekend -- last year we had new year's midweek -- and then had other guests staying the following weekend,” observed Bellis. “Perceptions and realities about snow have been affecting reservations and cancellations. I believe the delayed colder weather and snow has affected the valley negatively -- but as always we will bounce back and things will get back to normal,” finished Bellis.
Jon Nartowicz, Director of Sales, Hampton Inn and Suites North Conway reported that their indoor water park saved the day for the Christmas Week which ended up even with last year’s bookings and New Year’s Eve weekend ahead of last year. “Our ADR has increased as well as occupancy, and even with the lack of snow, having a complimentary indoor water park helped keep the numbers strong,” shared Nartowicz.
The reports were mixed from restaurants. Bud Selmi, Owner of Margarita Grill told the chamber that both Christmas week and New Year’s Eve weekend was down about 20-percent from 2014, concurring with the observation that visitors seemed to leave earlier on Saturday this year.
Jen Kovach, however, shared that Max’s Restaurant and Pub was very successful for the holiday week observing that Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve were up from last year, and crediting new chef, Peter Willis, as a huge draw for the restaurant.
Christopher Bellis of Chef’s Bistro in North Conway noted a 66-percent increase for the holiday season over last year, yet mentioned that last year the restaurant had only been opened a short time prior to the holiday week. “We had a special prix fixe menu on New Year's eve which was very well received and we served over 120 diners that night. The energy continued through the early part of the weekend -- but diners seemed to want to head back home as the New Year's weekend progressed,” reported Bellis.
Genn L Anzaldi, co-owner of the J-Town Deli in Jackson also reported a strong vacation week. “The timing of the snow was perfect, if not late, but thank God we got it! The deli was even with We did the last year, might have been more, if we had good snow before Christmas, but it turned out to be better than we expected,” said Anzaldi.
The retailers who reported to the survey seemed to bear the bonus of the warmer weather, during the Christmas Week. Dot Seybold, GM of Settlers Green and Settlers Crossing Outlet Villages shared “Settlers Green benefited from the warmer than usual weather for Christmas shopping but we were grateful to see snow and skiers for the Christmas-New Year week!”
Timothy W. Psaledakis, owner of Jewelry by Timothy W. Psaledakis & Friends reported that Christmas week sales were up over last year, saying “Spending was up in my shop due to upgraded displays, increased hours open, and more unique/ exclusive items for sale.”
Mt Washington Valley businesses all concur that the rest of the winter will be dependent on weather conditions. While the curse of too much snow impeding travel like last year does not appear to be a problem, more snow in the mountains and especially in the back yards of our visitors will help to spur enthusiasm for outdoor recreation in Mt Washington Valley. Our current colder temperatures will allow snowmaking to continue around the clock, opening more and more terrain on the mountains, which will help as the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce remains committed to getting word out that there’s snow, great skiing and outdoor fun in Mt Washington Valley this winter.
To get ready for your next winter getaway to Mt Washington Valley, visit www.MtWashingtonValley.org, your complete resource for vacations planning. To talk with a vacation planner, call 1-800-DO-SEE-NH (800-367-3364). And to learn more about visiting New Hampshire go to www.VisitNH.gov.
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Photo caption: Visitors enjoyed snowmobile tours offered by Northeast ATV and Snowmobile Rental after the snow fell during Christmas week. Photo provided by Northeast ATV and Snowmobile Rental.
Additional Photos available upon request from Marti Mayne, PR@mtwashingtonvalley.org.