NORTH CONWAY, NH – Mt. Washington Valley businesses reported variable results for the important Christmas Vacation Week period. Although most businesses rebounded quickly from the previous week’s rain storm, vacationers did not turn out consistently. While some reported some sell-out dates and modest increases over the previous year, others saw significant declines, mostly due to the lack of snow and storm impacts.
The Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce polled its members on business activity for the period from December 25, 2023 - January 1, 2024.
Many area hotels, resorts and inns reported a decline in bookings compared to last year with drops in vacancy and revenue ranging from 2% to 50%. A few, including the White Mountain Hotel, saw a 5% increase in sales, according to GM Trevor Sullivan. Carol Sullivan added, “We really haven’t had many cancellations due to weather. We’ve had a few due to illness. Some guests in-house have extended their stays.” Kathleen Driscoll, director of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, quoted a 15% increase in business for the period.
Innkeeper Christopher Bellis of the Cranmore Inn in North Conway reported, “We are lucky to have a family that has been staying with us for 50 years which represents 40% of our business during this week - and they have returned and enjoyed their stay. When factoring them in, our sales and room nights are down 20% year over year. However, if I factor them out, our sales are down 37% for non-group stays and our room nights are down 42% for non-group stays.”
Joel Bourassa, GM for the Eagle Mountain House, shared that business was “roughly about the same” as last year, but felt that ski conditions dampened occupancy. He added, “The floods and subsequent lack of weather for snowmaking combined for a 1-2 punch for our skier guests.”
Paul Durfee, Marketing Director for the Berry Companies said, “Our collective resorts are 2% behind 2022's holiday vacation, attributable to unseasonable temperatures and an underwhelming amount of snow for this time of year.”
Part of the North Conway area’s popularity comes from its variety of activities and attractions which makes the region resilient even if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Case in point, its many restaurants and retail outlets. New restaurant owner Krittima Valt of Mountain Moose Noodles and Asian Street Food in Settlers Green shared that they were extremely busy for the week. Bill Frittenberg, GM of Black Cap Grille, reported, “The volume of guests was down, but the ones we served spent more than last year.”
Local attractions and activities that rely on snow did not reach their business goals for the week. Sebastian Wee, spokesperson for Cranmore Mountain, said, “Cranmore, like the rest of the resorts in the area, was down primarily due to weather. This naturally led to a decline with snowsports over the weekend. On the other hand, Tubing and Mountain Adventure Park are actually up from last year, becoming increasingly popular with Cranmore families. And our trails are back to where they were pre-storm, even adding extra trails since then.”
King Pine Ski Area reported visits were off by approximately 40%. Their Tubing Park was not able to open for the week, but families did enjoy skiing and ski lessons at the Madison ski area. Alex Foti of Bretton Woods Vacations said looking forward, they see “solid bookings so far in spite of the weather.”
Attitash Mountain delayed the opening of their new Mountaineer Chairlift due to storm impacts. Attitash reported on their social media accounts, “The Mountaineer is operational and ready to ride. However, due to the extensive rain and warm temperatures, our trails off the summit will not be ready for this holiday break.” Instead, the resort hosted a base terminal tour with GM Brandon Swartz on Saturday.
The Cog Railway reported sales down significantly for the vacation week. Marketing Director Rob Arey, said, “The storm washing away all the snow, washed away Christmas vacation ski trips. Without those people in the area to ski, we were down about 35%.”
Visitors were made up of mostly families and couples hailing from nearby New England states, especially Massachusetts. Family groups made a strong showing as reported by Eagle Mountain House, Mountain Moose Noodles, the Inn at Jackson and Bretton Woods Vacations.
It’s best to remain cautiously optimistic as a business owner in a weather-dependent resort town like North Conway. Long-time restauranteur Ben Wiliams, owner of Barley & Salt and Black Cap Grille, shared his outlook, informed by decades of running restaurants in the Valley, “Two things come to mind when I look back on snowless vacations weeks. 1. With fewer things to do during the day, going out to lunch becomes an activity for the day. Longer lunches, meal times later in the day and bigger parties. 2. With fewer people skiing, there seems to be bigger spenders on weeks like this. Budgets have a bit more room for restaurant spending.”
“I’m sure we’ll do just fine. It’s the following weeks that will be slow, unless we get some snow. They just won’t come back until conditions improve (but they always do).”
For more information on the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, visit them online at www.visitMWV.com