Visitors storm into valley for February vacation weeks

By Marti Mayne
CONWAY — Businesses responding to a Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce survey only needed one word to explain why business during the two February vacation weeks was up substantially over last year.
The snow was both a blessing and a curse at times, with storms impacting some weekend travel plans, but most Mount Washington Valley businesses applauded the 20 to 30 inches of snowfall that occurred in the valley during Presidents Week and N.H. Vacation Week. The well-timed storm prior to vacation week (which many called Nemo) also helped to fuel excitement about hitting the slopes and trails for winter adventure. Many also credited the "backyard" effect of skiers seeing snow in their own backyards to motivate them to travel to Mount Washington Valley and enjoy all the outdoor recreation there.  Overall, the responses to an informal chamber survey were extremely positive about the two vacation weeks.
As would be expected, all those involved in delivering winter adventure had nothing but smiles. Peter Gagne, owner of Northern Extremes Snowmobiling said the company had a record vacation week. "We sold out the entire nine days of Presidents Vacation Week (and weekends on both sides) at both of our locations," he said, adding, "The snow down south really helped. We welcomed a huge increase from travelers from southern New England especially from Connecticut." Northern Extremes Snowmobiling also had a very strong N.H. Vacation Week, saying sales were up nearly 15 percent from 2012.
Terry MacGillivray, owner of Northeast Snowmobile Rentals, reported a 300 percent increase in sales over 2012 for Presidents Week and a 200 percent increase in sales for the N.H. Vacation Week, also crediting the great snow conditions and an increase in couples and groups this year.
Ski resorts and cross-country center marketing directors were enthusiastic about the increased snowfall timed perfectly with the vacation weeks. Thom Perkins, executive director of the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, reported a 24 percent increase in trail pass sales and even more in lesson sales at the cross-country center for the Presidents Week and more than a 12 percent increase for N.H. Vacation Week (reporting before the vacation week ended) and an increase in lesson sales. "We have been teaching a large number of lessons," he said. "We had days that doubled previous eight-year average of lessons. We have been putting emphasis on learning to ski for several years and it is starting to pay off."
Cranmore Mountain Resort was up 8 percent in skier visits over 2012 for Presidents Week and 5 percent for President's Weekend, according to Cranmore Mountain marketing manager Becca Deschenes. Reporting before the end of the N.H. Vacation Week, Cranmore was already 13 percent up in skier visits over 2012.  "The storm right before Presidents Week helped people get really excited to get out and ski and ride," said Deschenes.
Craig Clemmer, director of sales and marketing for the Omni Mount Washington Resort, reported double-digit growth for the N.H. Vacation Week at Bretton Woods. Genn Anzaldi, director of marketing at Black Mountain, told the chamber 2013 Presidents Week was one of the best vacation weeks on record for Black Mountain, which logged a 15 percent increase in skier visits over last year for the Presidents Vacation Week. Anzaldi attributed the increase to great snow conditions and plenty of pre-vacation promotion.
Lodging properties responded to the survey with equal enthusiasm.  Steve Lambert, general manager at Red Jacket Mountain View Resort, reported a 25 percent increase in room sales over last year, crediting everything from great snow to "alligators to hedgehogs in the ballroom" (part of the traveling zoo that visited the resort during the vacation week along with a group of Olympic jump ropers). Tom Spaulding, general at Hampton Inn and Suites, reported essentially even occupancy with last year (which was also nearly sold out during vacation weeks), saying the storm on Presidents Weekend left some digging out in Massachusetts. He said the hotel's indoor water park contributed to the vacation-week success by offering a "weatherproof" attraction for guests.
Artie Adams, general manager at Eastern Inns, reported in with one of the best vacation weeks in a long time, also crediting the great snow conditions for the increases over last year. "We had a lot of families extend their stays because of the great skiing conditions and location and excellent customer service," said Adams.
A number of additional lodging property owners responding to the survey but wishing not to be quoted also reported occupancies ranging from "even" compared with last year to 30 percent increases.
Dot Seybold, retail general manager at Settlers' Green Outlet Village and Settlers' Crossing, said Presidents Week shopping was "up, up, up" over last year. Seybold explained that the outlet center welcomed more Canadians this year, but primarily credits the great snow conditions with attracting more skiers to the region, who shopped after they hit the slopes. Her comments were echoed by others who responded to the survey, saying they welcomed many Canadians during Presidents Week.
"Overall we are very positive heading into March," said Janice Crawford, executive director of the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.
"With more than 170 inches of snowfall this winter in parts of Mount Washington Valley fueling plenty of enthusiasm for outdoor winter adventure, we expect to see a strong end of the ski season extending well into early-to-mid April," said Crawford.

Marti Mayne is publicist for the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.