Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For those dependent on snow and ice for a livelihood, Wednesday was a soggy reminder of how little snow and cold weather Minnesota has had. The economic blow to local and out-state resorts is already adding up, with retailers also taking a huge hit.
At resorts and ski areas, advance bookings are way down. Shops that specialize in winter sports gear are just praying for some of the white stuff before Christmas.
The Minneapolis Park Board has also taken a hit.
Last year, just in the month of December, the park board collected $140,000 in passes at Theodore Wirth Park for cross country skiing, tubing, snowshoeing and snowboarding. While they don’t have an estimate of what they have been able to collect this year, a representative said it is a fraction of that amount and they are not alone.
At Afton Alps, the chair lifts and retail shops are empty, half of the runs are open, and the number of visitors has been cut in half, too. Manager Joes Yasis said it’s been tough.
“We are constantly monitoring the weather. We are listening to your weather guys and making our day-to-day plans as far as staffing, which lifts we are going to open and where we are going to make snow,” said Yasis.
Snowboard instructor Tom Byrne said he has made half as much as he did last year.
“It’s making me squeeze every penny and making me make sure I spend it on the right thing,” said Byrne.
At Finn Sisu, a Lauderdale store that specialized in cross country skiing, sales have been slow. Longtime owner Ahvo Taipale said no snow before Christmas is his worst case scenario.
“This industry goes in cycles and the cycle before Christmas is very, very important to us. So, this is a definite concern for us right now,” said Taipale.
However, while some are hurting, others have found opportunity.
At Oak Marsh Golf course in Oakdale, they are busy taking tee times through the weekend. They reopened Wednesday and even had a few golfers playing in the rain.
“Golf courses struggle to make it through the winter to get back to the spring when we make revenue,” said Steve Willock, the manager of Oak Marsh. “Anytime we get the opportunity and it doesn’t damage things, we are happy to open up the doors and let people pay us to play.”
Everyone dependent on the weather said these next two weeks right before Christmas are critical.
Snow would mean people out shopping for skis and snowmobiles as gifts, and Christmas break is often the time when families and kids like to go skiing or visit a resort.