Region’s winter tourism is snow mystery | News, Sports, Jobs
ONTONAGON — As recent April snowstorms have continued to demonstrate, the 2017-18 winter season has been great for snowfall.
One of the benefits of all this snow is it attracts winter tourists to the area.
A hotspot for snowmobilers and skiers alike, Ontonagon is a popular place for Midwest snowmobilers that looks to be growing in reputation.
At the Konteka Black Bear Resort in White Pine, the snowmobile tourist season has been exceptional, said longtime employee Kelly Golden.
In fact, Golden said this season has been one of the best years yet, according to the owner.
The great snowmobile season was attributed to the large snow quantities here and the shortage of snow in other areas around the Midwest.
“I’ve been here for almost five years, and it’s picked up every year,” she said.
It’s harder to tell with winter business as the snow plays a major role, but summer has been getting steadily busier for the Konteka, Golden said.
“More and more people do hear about the place and the area, and how good it is around here, so they come here even when they do have snow,” she said.
The Lake in the Clouds, in particular, is a popular destination for visitors, even in winter.
By now the winter tourist season is mostly over, with many businesses closing for a brief period before the spring-summer season, said park interpreter Bob Wild of Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park.
Solid park visitation numbers were not available yet, but Wild thought revenue was at least on par with previous winters, if not up from the past several.
Wild also noticed regional snow levels impacting park attendance.
“We had good, reliable snow for most of the winter, and a lot of the places nearby did not,” he said. “Those are the years when we tend to see a lot of visitors from outside of the area.”
Visitors to the park typically come from nearby major cities like Chicago and Minneapolis, with a mix of repeat visitors and new arrivals.
They like that there is reliable snow and so many winter recreation options, Wild explained.
“There’s lots to do around here in the winter,” he said.
The strong season also translated to Houghton and Keweenaw counties, according to Keweenaw Convention & Visitors Bureau president Diane St. Amour, although official numbers have yet to be determined.
The organization tracks occupancy averages throughout the year. St. Amour also attributes the popularity to the snow and maintenance.
“Our trail groomers are some of the best around,” she said. “We give the rest of the Midwest a run for their money when it comes to their snow season.”