Snow sports equals big bucks for North Carolina mountainsWritten by Quintin Ellison
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The rest of the economy might have suffered, but a couple of snowy winters are adding up to big bucks and good times for North Carolina’s ski industry.
Last year, the total economic impact of this segment of the state’s economic pie amounted to $146 million. That number is courtesy of the N.C. Ski Areas Association, which crunched and computed the figures for the 2009-2010 season and recently released its findings.
That good news doesn’t come as a surprise for ski industry workers such as Brittany Heatherly of Skis and Tees in Maggie Valley, who said the store was running out of rental equipment by 10 a.m. each day during the Christmas break.
“It’s been awesome,” Heatherly said. “Everybody is making a lot of money, and having fun. There have been a lot of people because it has been such good weather.”
(Clarification to readers: “Good weather” to the skiing industry would be the snow and cold many people have a difficult time dealing with.)
Heatherly, an avid snowboarder, said skiers and other winter-weather lovers didn’t let road conditions prevent them from getting to the slopes at resorts such as Cataloochee in Haywood County. Folks used four-wheel drive vehicles or put chains on their car tires.
N.C. Ski Areas Association defines “economic value” as the total value to the economy from the existence of ski areas. Winter value, employment value, capital improvements and economic multipliers were considered. The study looked from November to March as the “ski season” when compiling this report.
North Carolina has six ski areas: Cataloochee Ski Area, Sapphire Valley Ski Area, Ski Beech, Appalachian Ski Mountain, Wolf Ridge Ski Resort and Sugar Mountain Ski Resort.
Collectively, these ski areas provided 96 year-round jobs and 1,557 seasonal jobs during last year’s ski season. The industry generated over $32 million in gross revenue from ski area operations, including lift tickets, lessons, equipment rental, retail stores and food and beverages.
David Huskins, who heads the regional tourism group Smoky Mountain Host that is headquartered outside Franklin, said the rockslide and subsequent closure of Interstate 40 in the Pigeon Gorge section of Haywood County “obviously … impacted our region’s ski economy.”
“But, generally, reports are that it was offset by the continued natural snowfall through December-March 2010,” he added. “Good news for our region.”
Money breakdown on individuals at ski areas
(Per person spending, and percent of total)
Lift tickets/tubing/ice skating: $44.78; 33.5%
Ski/snowboard lessons: $5.75; 4.8%
Equipment rental/demo at ski area: $13.81; 10.7%
Equipment rental/demo at other N.C. locations: $1.97; 1.4%
Food/beverage/restaurants on mountain/base: $16.88; 13.2%
Food/beverage/restaurants in other N.C. cities: $14.22; 9.8%
Lodging accommodations (nightly rate): $18.88;14.4%
Shopping/gifts/souvenirs/retail stores: $9.04; 6.6%
Entertainment/activities: $3.85; 3.0%
Local transportation/rental car: $1.54; 1.6%
Other spending: $0.98; 0.9%
Total per person spending: $131.70
Source: N.C. Ski Areas Association
09-10 statistics at N.C. ski areas
Total Visits: 671,554
Total Revenue: $32,526,608
Year-Round Employees: 96
Seasonal Employees: 1,557
Capital Expenditures: $3,341,237
Source: N.C. Ski Areas Association