Pats Peak’s expansion a further boon for Henniker, local businesses
From left: Theresa England, 8, and her sisters Ronnie, 10, and Sophie, 12, of Boston, skiied toward the chairlift at the bottom of the Cascade Basin section of Pats Peak on Thursday, February 20, 2014. Cascade Basin just opened this season and more parts of it are under construction and are expected to open during the next two seasons. (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
Clad in clunky ski boots, two women embraced amid the buzz of children returning from afternoon lessons. “We skied the Basin,” Christina Humber of Nashua excitedly told Bertie Holland, snowsports director at Pats Peak in Henniker.
Humber and her 10-year-old son, Caleb, spent the day at the mountain, enjoying the sunny weather and taking their first run together on the resort’s newest trails.
“I like that they opened up more (trails) so that people can spread out,” she said. “Sometimes it can get kind of crowded.”
It’s been just more than two months since Pats Peak unveiled Cascade Basin’s four runs and a triple chairlift on the newly developed backside of the mountain. The $1 million dollar project is the first time the family-owned business has purchased new land for an expansion, said Marketing Director Lori Rowell. Once completed within the next few years, Cascade Basin will add more than 20 acres of terrain to Pats’s slopes. Two trails will be added to Cascade Basin’s existing beginner and intermediate runs.
It’s an investment in the mountain, but also in a community that relies on the visitors.
“Pats Peak is a vital part of the economics of Henniker,” said Paul Sheppard, immediate past president of the town’s chamber of commerce.
A season pass holder at the mountain, Sheppard said he’s noticed the mountain is busier than ever. That’s something the community is working to capitalize on.
Now, when visitors drive away from the mountain, before turning onto the main road, they will see a sign pointing toward Henniker’s business district. On it are icons for gas, hospitality, food and ATMs. The town installed the sign about three weeks ago, Sheppard said, after officials noticed GPS systems were routing Pats Peak visitors on a path that bypasses the town’s retail area.
“There is no question that the ski industry is really important in these areas,” said Daniel Lee, co-author of an Institute for New Hampshire Studies report – released yesterday in conjunction with Ski NH – that analyzes the impact of the industry on the state. Between May 2012 and April 2013, visitors drawn to New Hampshire’s slopes spent an estimated $786 million on goods and services such as hotels, gas and food. Combined with $359 million in direct spending at the resorts in both summer and winter, the economic impact statewide topped $1.1 billion over the course of the year, setting a new high.
Pats Peak and surrounding businesses are working to pull in a share of that growth.
Down the road from the resort, 40 percent of Colby Hill Inn’s winter business comes from visitors to the mountain, said Cynthia Cobb, who co-owns the Henniker bed and breakfast with her husband. They have partnered with Pats Peak on ski deals, and over the past few months, Cobb has started to see a trend. More advanced skiers are staying at the inn, and more people are booking weekends, she said.
“I think maybe that has something to do with the addition of new trails,” Cobb said.
Lauren Rabagno, a bartender at Henniker Junction Restaurant, has noticed an uptick in customers since the first snowfall. More than 50 percent of the restaurant’s business is tied to Pats Peak, she said.
It was especially busy this week because many Massachusetts schools are on winter break. During lunchtime Wednesday, the bar was completely full, a rarity. “They were all out-of-towners,” she said. “They weren’t locals.”
(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at email@example.com.)