Cold Temperatures, Early Snow A Boon For Winter Tourism

Ski Hills Have Already Begun Making Snow For Their Trails

Rib Mountain in Wausau, which will be covered in snow and open to the public this weekend. Photo: Al (CC-BY-NC).

While some are cursing the early return of winter to northern Wisconsin, businesses that depend on tourism are rejoicing as regional ski hills open early.

In the northwestern Wisconsin community of Dresser, the Trollhaugen Outdoor Recreation Area has already been open for two weekends. General Manager Jim Rochford said that this year, they were able to start making snow on Halloween.

“What we need is just temps to get down below 27, 28 degrees,” said Rochford. “But it just seems like the last three years, we’ve been able to open up at the very last week of October.”

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At Granite Peak in central Wisconsin, the snow making machines have turned the north slope of Rib Mountain white. Snow Sports Education Director Chris Pingel said the Wausau-area ski hill will open this weekend.

“Our snow-making operation is pretty ginormous here,” said Pingel. “We have about 75 fan guns. Temperatures dropping (Tuesday) night are going to allow us to probably keep them running 24 hours a day for the next couple of days, in which case we will have just a tremendous amount of snow.”

Tracy Baltz, director of marketing for the Wausau Central Wisconsin Convention and Visitors Bureau, said downhill skiing is just part of the mix, and noted that snowmobiling and cross-country skiing also benefit from the winter weather.

She said tourism year-round has become a major part of the Wausau area economy.

“$217 million in total traveler expenditures. It’s the equivalent of over 4,000 full-time jobs,” said Baltz.

Indeed, for many Wisconsin communities, winter white is the new green.