Warmer Winters Create Uphill Battle for NC Ski Resorts
BOONE, N.C. – When Boone businessman Mike Doble started his website Ski Southeast more than 20 years ago, North Carolina had eight ski resorts.
Now, the state is down to six.
With interest in skiing and snowboarding still consistent among outdoor enthusiasts, Doble and other insiders don’t attribute the decrease to declining consumer interest.
They point to warming weather, and this season hasn't done resorts any favors.
"There's no amount of marketing that any ski area can do anywhere really in the country, much less the Southeast,” Doble states. “Nothing trumps marketing like snow does, and the lack of it and the lack of snowmaking temperatures, not a whole lot these ski areas can do."
Doble says while there hasn't been as much snowfall in the last two seasons, temperatures have been cold enough to make snow for many resorts. He says the challenge is that when temperatures in metropolitan areas are higher, winter sports are less likely to be on the minds of consumers.
This weekend, Ski Southeast is hosting its annual conference at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia, where hundreds are expected to participate.
Shawn Cassell, a spokesman for Snowshoe, says resorts such as his are working to add additional activities, such as indoor swimming pools, playgrounds and polar plunges to make sure there's plenty to do even when there's less snow on the ground.
"We've got all kinds of non-skiing or snowboarding-related activities,” he stresses. “We've got Split Rock Pools is really cool, so we've got a place you can get in the water. We've got this place called the Big Top that has all these big inflatables and stuff for kids as young as two."
Doble says North Carolina's resorts provide a valuable opportunity for southeastern skiers to scratch their itch for a ski trip without breaking the bank.
"It's kind of convenient skiing because not everybody is going to hop on a jet and jet out to Montana, Utah, etc., and do that,” he states. “So the North Carolina ski areas turn somewhere in the ballpark around 400-500,000 unique skier visits per year annually."
Although the last two seasons have been tough, the latest 2014-2015 data from the North Carolina Ski Areas Association shows the state's six ski resorts contributed almost $200 million to the economy, a $60 million increase in five years.