By Victoria Guay, citizen.com
As state tourism officials recently announced that they expect an increase in the number of visitors to New Hampshire this winter, area ski resort and hotel owners and managers said they are hopeful the prediction will come true.
According to Tai Freligh of the N.H. Division Travel and Tourism Development, tourism officials are expecting approximately 6.5 million visitors to the Granite State this winter, a two percent increase over last winter, and, they predict spending to be about equal to the last winter season, at $830 million.
“Skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and other outdoor adventures all bring visitors to New Hampshire this time of year,” Freligh said in a release.
While the recent warm weather has delayed the opening of several New Hampshire ski resorts, spokesmen and women for some of the ski areas say they expect a strong season overall.
When asked what he anticipates for the upcoming season, Bill Quigley, spokesman for Gunstock Mountain Resort, quipped, “Well, we’re hopefully anticipating cold weather.”
Gunstock had been scheduled to open the first week of December but the opening has been pushed to the second week, Quigley said.
However, once the temperature drops below the freezing point, Gunstock will be able to fire up its recently upgraded snowmaking system to churn out plenty of the white, fluffy stuff.
The resort now has the capability to make 6,000 gallons of snow per minute — double the capacity it had last year.
Quigley said in terms of the number of visitors, he expects it will be similar to or more than last year. A positive indicator is the resort’s season pass sales, which Quigley said are at least two to three percent higher than last year.
He added that, at a ski industry show in Boston the weekend before Thanksgiving, many people showed interest in skiing at Gunstock and in staying in the area for a couple of days.
“People are excited about winter travel and they’re tired of the headlines; they want to get away and play,” Quigley said. “People are staying closer to home, but they still want to recreate and I think New Hampshire, and in particular the Lakes Region, is the perfect destination.”
Bob Fries, president and marketing director for Ragged Mountain Ski Resort in Danbury, said while the season has gotten off to a slow and warm start, he expects the number of skiers to be higher than last year.
“We had planned to open the Friday after Thanksgiving, but the warm weather didn’t help,” Fries said.
Temperatures reached the low 60s Thursday, but weather for the end of the week and the beginning of next is expected to remain cold enough for snowmaking, Fries said, so they are now anticipating opening on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 9 a.m.
“It’s an El Ni