Winter gives businesses a boost
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | Dec. 22, 2016
Wednesday was the first official day of winter, but the season felt like it was already here a couple of weeks ago following heavy snowfall and temperatures in the negative double digits.
And many local business owners are thrilled with the change in seasons.
Sir Sam’s Ski & Bike in Eagle Lake was able to open three of its 14 runs on the weekend of Dec. 10.
“It was great,” said Chris Bishop, manager and co-owner. “It was probably the best in about five years.”
Close to 500 people hit the slopes over two days.
The conditions have been ideal for snowmaking. Staff were able to finish before Christmas, which only happens every five years, said Bishop.
All runs should be open by Monday.
There has been a “drastic” increase in sales at Algonquin Outfitters on Haliburton’s Highland Street because of the weather, according to regional manager Chris Varga.
“We’re doing well,” said Varga.
Sales are up from where they were the same time last year.
“Because it was such a banner summer, we were able to start this season with a cushion,” he said.
Though “everything winter” is in demand, the store has made some unusual sales, such as whitewater kayaking lessons. Varga believes this is because customers are looking for unique Christmas gifts.
The store sells a variety of outdoor gear for all seasons. Two of the company’s 12 stores are in the county, with the other location in Minden. That store is closed during the winter months. For Clay Glecoff, manager of V&S Department Store in Haliburton, winter has its ups and downs.
“When we get snow, there is a fine line between enough and too much,” said Glecoff.
Customers tend to stay indoors during heavy snowfall and then they are busy shovelling out.
“You lose a day because people won’t come out ...” he said.
Winter triggers spending, not just because of Christmas but because people need to stock up on boots, mitts and gloves, said Glecoff.
Just a few doors down, Transat Travel is experiencing its best winter yet.
“We’ve never been busier,” said branch manager Linda Coneybeare.
It was as if the snow reminded travellers now is the time to book, she said.
“That polar vortex will have us working overtime.”
In the month of November, the travel agency doubled its sales over last year. Most trips are being booked for the winter, but they are also finding clients deals for
the new year and 2018.
The county’s tourism director, Amanda Virtanen, expects the phone will start ringing with inquiries from visitors. A solid winter season is important for tourism in the Highlands.
“If we can have temps to keep the snow on the ground and lots and lots of snow – we will have a great season,” said Virtanen. With a fairly mild winter last year and a lack of snow, she admits it wasn’t good for winter-focused operators.
Environment Canada’s forecast is calling for a chance of flurries on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.