Summer tourism turns out to be lucrative for winter mountain resorts

SEVEN SPRINGS, Pa. (AP) – While hill stations are primarily known for scenic skiing and snowboarding during the winter months, summer tourism can be just as lucrative for business.

For more than 20 years, Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Somerset County has offered ‘summer adventures’ to off-season guests, which include attractions such as the Alpine Slide, Alpine Tower, chairlift rides, rock face, and mountain. paddle, among others.

This summer, Seven Springs also added the Foggy Goggle Ax House for ax throwing and the Trampoline Thing for guests to jump and roll up to 24 feet in the air. Another new attraction is Seven Springs Gem Mining, which offers geology and nature classes where amethyst, rose quartz, emerald, and other crystals can be found using a sieve tray in the lock.

“There has been a concerted effort here not to allow this location to (look) like a closed ski resort in the summer,” said Alex Moser, the resort’s director of marketing and communications. “Hope we are going to be a good alternative for a quick last minute summer getaway.”

According to Moser, Seven Springs’ summer income has overtaken winter in recent years – except in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Summer is a big part of the resort’s revenue,” Moser said, “but it’s not that summer endures winter or winter supports summer. It doesn’t work that way. .

In addition to the Adventures offers, which opened this year on May 28, Moser said conferences, weddings, meetings and festivals are integral to what makes summers so lucrative for Seven Springs.

Linda Irvin, executive director of the Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association, said it is often necessary for hill stations to work to operate year round.

“If you look at most of Pennsylvania’s ski areas, the majority of them are open year round (business) now – 20 years ago that wasn’t the case,” Irvin said. “I think more and more people are looking for outdoor adventures, so ski areas and mountains are a natural place to look for them.”

Irvin said another benefit of increased summer activity is station employees.

“I think it’s important to be able to prepare, mold and develop your staff,” Irvin said. “To do this, you often need a year-round job opportunity.”

Seven Springs is the area’s largest employer with its three properties, according to Moser, so it values ​​business year-round.

“We don’t take this lightly,” Moser said. “(We) want people to keep working because we know it’s good for the region.”

Seven Springs, Hidden Valley and Laurel Mountain stations collectively employed 2,100 people as of February 2020, Moser said. As of March, there were only 42 staff left.

“The pandemic has completely killed (our) business,” Moser said. “It was scary. I was grateful to be one of the 42.

Although the pandemic was “painful enough” with no conferences, weddings or reunions, Seven Springs was busy again last fall, Moser said.

“We sold every weekend in October last year,” Moser said. “People just wanted to get away and get some fresh air.”

According to Moser, the resort has 65 weddings booked this summer, up from more than 100 weddings two years ago. Almost all of the employees have returned.

Irvin said that although exact numbers have not been released, she predicts Pennsylvania has had a “record-breaking season of skier visits” in the past year.

“People stay close to home. They are looking for outdoor activities, things that they feel safe in, and I think the ski areas have provided them with that, ”Irvin said.

From December 2020 to March 2021, Irvin said that skier visits to Pennsylvania were “definitely over 2.5 million.” One visit is counted for each ticket purchase.

‘Best Kept Secret’

The coronavirus has also affected business at Peek’n Peak Resort, about 30 minutes east of Erie in Chautauqua County, NY, according to Carolyn Tome, marketing coordinator for Scott Enterprises, which owns and operates the property.

“Last year was a bit slower because of the restrictions, and (people were) less willing to travel,” Tome said. “(However) we still had a pretty solid crowd last year… because people saw it as a nice and safe getaway.”

Tome said that while the resort has made “a lot of effort” to make the environment safe for guests, she expects to see more growth this year as worried regulars start to return.

Similar to Seven Springs, Peek’n Peak offers summer programs and activities, including a ropes course, ziplines, Segway tours, and golf, plus a spa and pools.

The winter season is even more lucrative for Peek’n Peak, Tome said, even with plenty of conferences, weddings and events going on during the summer.

“As we added more throughout the summer, we were able to attract a larger audience,” Tome said, “(but) winter is definitely our busy peak season. “

In Pocahontas County, Va., Snowshoe Mountain Resort is known for mountain biking in the summer, hosting the only mountain biking World Cup stop in the United States, the resort spokesperson said. , Shawn Cassell.

Snowshoeing offers a “variety” of activities in the summer – even more so than in the winter, Cassell said. This includes canoeing, stand-up paddleboards and hiking, Segway tours, all-terrain vehicles, golf, and music events.

He attributed the resort’s focus on increasing summer activities to climate change, which he said is the “biggest threat” to the ski industry in the region.

“The best kept secret in snowshoeing is summer. We’re just trying to reveal the secret, ”Cassell said. “It would be a fantastic summer if we had half the people we (get) in the winter.”

Summer opportunities

Last ski season, there were 470 ski areas open in 37 states, according to the National Ski Areas Association. This includes 26 in Pennsylvania. Collectively, ski areas lost $ 2 billion in the 2019-20 season after the covid pandemic forced 93% of them to close early.

While summer activities are profitable for some resorts, others close after skiing is over, according to Adrienne Isaac, spokesperson for the Colorado-based organization.

For the 2019-2020 ski season, which included the summer before the pandemic and last year’s ‘prematurely shortened’ season, summer activities accounted for 11% of total mountain resort revenue across the country. national, reported the association. That percentage has increased “slightly” over the past 10 years, Isaac said.

That percentage is nearly 20% in the southeastern region of the NSAA, which includes Seven Springs, Isaac said.

Isaac also raised concerns about the effects of climate change on hill stations. A year-round opening could “mitigate some of the trade effects,” she said.

“There are thriving ski areas that focus only on winter activities and adjust their overall strategies accordingly,” Isaac said. “But summer activities and events can be a great opportunity for a ski area if they fit into their business plan.”

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Pennsylvania ranks among the best states in the United States with active ski areas.

1. New York – 51

2. Michigan – 40

3. Colorado – 31

4. Wisconsin – 31

5. California – 30

6. New Hampshire – 30

7. Pennsylvania – 26

Source: National Association of Ski Areas

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