As winter ends, snow businesses hang on

Posted at 4:58 PM, Feb 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-28 19:46:13-05

KEWAUNEE, WI -- This winter's ups and downs have been difficult to juggle for the businesses that thrive on snow.

Ski hills and winter recreation destinations got off to a late start this year. But there is a silver lining to these mild temperatures.
Many area ski hills push hard To stay open until at least mid-March. It's those final weeks of warm weather that can bring out big crowds, and big money.
But even if the season ends early, those we spoke with say they've made the most of it.
At Winter Park ski area, near Kewaunee, hundreds of families and friends are soaking in what some say feels like winter's swan song.
"It's my first time this year, and it might be the last," laughs tuber Morris Strain, out with family.
"So far, I would think maybe 100-200 people hopefully come through," says Kewaunee Co. promotions and recreation director David Myers. "It depends if the rain holds away from us. It's supposed to rain later in the day, so we'll see."
"We come once a year, and it just happens that, this year, it's close to the end," says Strain, as he sets his tube aside. "It's kind of slushy, muddy, but it's still great." 
Myers is clear that "this might be the last weekend, honestly."
Myers says this year's mild temps, which he describes as "very warm compared to previous years, definitely, were harder on their early season bottom line than average.
Some ski hills in the region were relying on man-made snow to get them through Christmas.
"A little tougher,' says Myers. "We opened a little later this year because we had all the rain in December, so we had to do a little extra work, more snowmaking."
But Myers is quick to point out that a mild winter actually helped them boost mid-season ticket sales.
[There was] a lot more attendance this year on some of the weekends when it was nicer out," says Myers. "It's easier when it's not below zero. It hurt us a little, but it helped us too."
Myers says Winter Park will try to stay open for another couple of weekends for those who still need their winter fix.
But as for Strain, "no, I feel I had enough," he adds, laughing.
Winter Park, and county leaders, say they'll see how this week's predicted rain impacts the ski and tubing hill before making any final decision on staying open.