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Warm weather cuts into snow-driven business

By Charlo Greene 9:05 PM January 21, 2014

Chinook winds wreak havoc on winter recreation and related business.

ANCHORAGE - Cameron Bain said winter has been good to snow-driven businesses like Hilltop Ski Area.

“The season has been fantastic,” Bain said, the Hilltop Ski Area manager. “We’ve had great numbers, the temperatures have been great.”

Tustumena 200 Race Director Tami Murray said gearing up for the season has been so good that organizers were able to double the race winner’s prize.

“It would’ve been $50,000,” Murray said. “We had a really good year of fundraising and we doubled our purse.”

‘Would’ve,’ however, is the operative word. Due to the unseasonably warm weather, Murray said, the race is at risk of being cancelled.

“Very, very disappointing. We work hard year-round on this race,” Murray said. “To come up to the week of, and the temperatures are just not workable.”

The warm temps are also affecting winter recreation areas like Hilltop, Alyeska Resort and Mt. Eyak in Cordova have also been impacted by the warm weather.

“We’ve had a couple of closures,” Bain said. “We were closed on Friday. Saturday we had a delayed opening. And that definitely affects our numbers, having to cancel ski school, not being open.”

Alyeska was closed Tuesday and posted a message on its Facebook page that it would be closed Wednesday as well due to the warm weather.

It isn’t just winter recreation areas affected, but also the businesses that surround these sites that depend on the traffic they pull in.

The owners of The Bake Shop, which sits at the base of Alyeska, said the warm weather cuts into her business when it forces the ski resort to close.

These winter recreation areas do have equipment to make snow, but said it’s expensive and tedious and with temperatures above freezing, that snow would just melt too.

Ski area and resort workers said the best they can do now is hope for more typical Alaska winter temps to return.

The T200 race director said if they cancel the race this year, that $50,000 prize will be rolled into next year’s purse.  The decision on whether to cancel the race or not will be made Monday.

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