Why? Well, simply put, snow is more than the traditional window dressing for the holidays. It’s white gold, one of the most essential elements to the local economy. A white Christmas means a green December for most local business, in particular those dependent on the tourism economy. In this valley, that’s just about every business at some level.
What would a white Christmas mean for the local economy? It would really be a shot in the arm. We’re not necessarily talking about the ski mountains. Modern winter resorts can manufacture snow, and skiers and riders will still come. But the white stuff on the ground may mean more skiers and riders will come, that’s for sure. It will also attract snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, snowshoe trekkers, and other winter sports enthusiasts who don’t necessarily need a lift ticket to enjoy their time outdoors.
At this point, the weather forecast looks favorable for a snowy holiday season. That’s good. But long term, the outlook may not be so bright. Global warming is a fact. There is no doubt about that. That doesn’t bode well for a winter-sports-based economy, such as we have here. That means business and local community leaders need to rethink just how we will make our way economically through the rest of this century.
While redefining and retooling the local economy may seem daunting and overwhelming, in many ways the tools to do just such a thing are falling into place. There is real and serious effort underway to define what types of economic development will work here. Grants have been secured and new efforts are underway. Just last week we reported on a large federal grant to help southern Vermont’s economy recover, and much of that work will be centered here in the valley. We also have developers in the private sector who are betting on the region and an economic rebound.
It’s incumbent upon the local business community and area leaders to not squander those opportunities. In many ways, the region has an opportunity to change its dependency on winter sports as the major economic engine. Diversification is the key. Tourism will always be a major component of the economy of the valley, but it shouldn’t be the only one. Other avenues of economic growth need to be identified and aggressively pursued. A year-round economy based on something other than outdoor recreation can complement what we already have, and add stability through the highs and the lows of our current economic model.
By doing so, local businesses won’t feel the necessity to keep their fingers crossed waiting for snow to jump-start the local economy.
And a white Christmas will become more of a nostalgic sentiment, instead of an economic necessity.