by Phil Yacuboski
Businesses that welcome tourists are getting ready for a busy winter season with many hoping that Mother Nature can add some cold winter weather and piles of snow for a rustic ambiance.
“The weather has been good for us so far this year,” said Jim Tust of the Shawnee Mountain Ski Area. “We got some good cold weather in early November, and we took advantage of it by making snow and getting the mountain open early the weekend before Thanksgiving. We are in pretty good shape.”
Tust said they are hoping for a better season than last year.
“We get excited this time of year,” he said. “And with Christmas falling in the middle of the week, that gives us two weekends to really take advantage of the crowds.”
The other big ski weekends are the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend and Presidents’ Day Weekend.
“Those weekends are big for us, and it’s very important for us to have snow and cold weather,” he said.
Tust said the resort has been spending a lot of money on automated snow-making, which means all of the snow guns are operated by computer.
If people aren’t skiers or snowboarders, there are plenty of other outdoor activities people can take part in during the winter months.
“We have our UTV tours running, and we rely on snow from Mother Nature to do our snowmobiles,” said Danielle Loverdi, Pocono Outdoor Adventure Tours.
The company rents snowmobiles and off-road all-terrain vehicles (equipped with roll cages, net restraints and seatbelts) where customers can roam the thousands of private acreage on the property of the Pocono Manor Resort.
“We typically get the most snow in February and March, which is when everything seems to pick up for us,” she said. “We did have some snow earlier in the season, so we did get the snowmobiles out on the trails for about a week. I’m hoping that it’s a good indication that we do get some snow this winter.”
She said most of the business involves weekend treks with groups of people.
At the Pocono Environmental Education Center in Dingmans Ferry, summer guests abound, but the facility is also open during the winter months.
“We have a program called ‘Mad Science,’ which is geared toward kids, where they can make slime, bottle launchers, and kids can learn about experimentation they can do at home,” said George Johnson, weekend manager and volunteer coordinator for the PEEC.
He said they’ll also hold two eagle watches where there are established eagle nests.
“People will hopefully get to see to a lot of our national bird out in the wild,” he said. “They are beautiful and majestic to see in the wild.”
“The winter is definitely our slow time, but we still get visitors,” he said. “But it’s a great time to come and visit. Even if the weather is particularly warm, it’s a great time of year to get out and about.”
The PEEC is a nonprofit that partners with the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. It takes groups or the general public and offers cabin rentals to the public.
“We are looking for a good winter crowd,” he said.
The Pocono Mountain Vacation Bureau spent about $1.5 million on advertising during the winter months last season – slightly more than it did during the summer months, according to the PMVB annual economic impact report.