• Summer businesses see a break in the (wet) weather
    By
     | July 15,2013
     
    Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo

    Micah “Mad Dog” Gallagher of Jackson, N.H., takes a break from mountain biking at Killington.

    The weekend offered some welcome relief for those who make their living from outdoor activities.

    The simple reason in a word: rain — and lots of it of late.

    Businesses most impacted include state parks, private campgrounds and golf courses.

    Attendance at the 52 state parks is down 25 percent so far compared with a year ago, said Craig Whipple, director of state parks.

    “The reason for the 25 percent down is totally weather related and it’s mostly day (visitors),” Whipple said.

    He said the overnight camping end of the business hasn’t suffered as much because campers make their reservations far in advance and are less likely to cancel their trip.

    Whipple added that the falloff in visitors, while significant, comes a year after the state parks set a 20-year record year with 915,000 visitors.

    And Whipple said the latest figures do not include the July 4 holiday, when the weather improved considerably. He said that should translate into a rebound in attendance.

    Despite all the wet weather, he said there has been minimal damage in the way of erosion.

    And Whipple is optimistic that the weather will right itself.

    “When we’ve had a very wet beginning to the summer and parks’ visitations are way down, there seems to be a dynamic of pent-up demand,” he said. “People are waiting for the sunshine and when it does, they head to places like the state parks.”

    The weather has also affected business at Kampersville, a private campground on Lake Dunmore.

    “We’ve definitely had cancellations each weekend,” said owner Holly Hathaway.

    The weather does restrict outdoor activities like swimming and boating, but Hathaway also said campers are a resilient lot so many will come despite the weather.

    Over the recent holiday, the 209-site campground was “pretty full,” she said.

    Hathaway said the campground had some flooding issues forcing the temporary closure of a few camp sites.

    Business in recent years has also been effected by the economy.

    “We’re just not seeing the people showing up unannounced without reservations,” she said. “We used to have more of those in the past.”

    The economy has also affected how people camp. In the past, Hathaway said campers might make several trips of short duration during the season. Now, she’s noticed they’re making fewer trips but staying longer.

    While Memorial Day is considered the official start of summer, there is plenty of time to make up for any lost business, said Megan Smith, commissioner of the state Department of Tourism and Marketing.

    “I think tourism in the beginning of the summer is always kind of unpredictable,” Smith said. “Once we hit that July 4 weekend, this is when our strong season begins.”

    In particular, she said August is the busiest month of the year for tourism. “We all have our fingers and toes crossed,” Smith said.

    At Green Mountain National Golf Course, the number of rounds is “down a fair amount,” said general manager David Soucy.

    Soucy said out-of-state golfers make up approximately half the business so even the threat of rain is enough to discourage them from coming up.

    He said that’s balanced somewhat by group business.

    “We have groups that come and so if it’s a group of 12 or 24 guys, they’re going to come even if it’s raining, unless the golf course is unplayable,” Soucy said.

    He said the rain has effected everything from the number of rounds and lessons to pro shop and food and beverage sales,

    Killington Resort has been holding its own throughout the wet spell.

    “Our golf is slightly down but everything else is right on par,” said Killington spokeswoman Sarah Thorson.

    She said lodging reservations are up for July.

    The weather also hasn’t interrupted construction of the $7 million Peak Lodge, which is scheduled to open in December.

    Okemo Mountain Resort had much the same story to tell.

    “Business has not been affected too terribly by the weather,” Okemo spokeswoman Bonnie MacPherson said in an email.

    She said golf rounds are down a bit at the Okemo Valley Golf Club but better than projected at Tater Hill Golf Club.

    She said attendance at the resort’s Adventure Zone is up over last year.

    For The Start House Ski and Bike shop in Woodstock, as the weather goes so goes sales and rentals.

    “Today, business is great, when it’s pouring rain, business is slow,” said owner Jennifer McKenna, as the sun finally came out Friday.

    But for the last three weeks, the dip in sales and rentals coincided exactly with the stormy weather.

    A case in point, McKenna said the shop had to cancel last week’s mountain bike ride “just because the trails are waterlogged.”

    bruce.edwards@rutlandherald.com

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