Just when everyone thought that winter was over and it was time to pull out mountain bikes, hiking shoes and kayaks, the snowstorms that had failed to show up earlier in the season made their appearance. Feet of snow fell at Copper Mountain, Vail Mountain and Breckenridge Ski Resort during closing weekend, prompting announcements several days later that the resorts were extending the season for an extra weekend to allow skiers and riders a chance to enjoy the fresh powder.As snow enthusiasts geared up to take their last turns down the slopes, local businesses prepared to meet the last-minute crowds and gather in another round of profits before the mud-season lull. The announcement came too late for some, particularly those that rely mostly on seasonal workers, many of which had already left the county or made plans to leave before the news came through the grapevine. Others - those with core year-round staff and that generally don't close at the end of the season - kept their doors open and waited for the weekenders to come through.And come they did. Traffic numbers from the Colorado Department of Transportation show 18,282 vehicles passing westbound through the Twin Tunnels on Friday and 13,629 Saturday. The same weekend last year recorded only 14,019 on Friday and 11,977 for Saturday. Sunday's eastbound traffic totaled 16,925 this year compared with only 14,105 in 2012.While only a few days' notice for extra skiing would not be enough for far away or destination visitors, those living along the Front Range had ample opportunity to plan a weekend in the mountains.Restaurants seemed to do the strongest business over the weekend, catering to the needs of hungry skiers and riders, both local and visiting."It definitely helped us," said Julie Ludwig, front of the house manager for Mi Casa in Breckenridge. Ludwig reported that the restaurant's numbers were up on Friday from last year and "way up" for Saturday and Sunday. Ludwig said that the increase was most likely due to a combination of the resorts reopening and the good snow. "If it had been like (it was in) December, it would've been different."Todd Nelson, corporate chef at Breckenridge restaurants Empire Burger, Park & Main, Briar Rose Chophouse & Saloon and Giampietro Pasta & Pizzeria, agreed that the snow played a large part in bringing in the crowds."I think it was more driven by the snow," he said. "If we look back at last year, ... the ski area was open last year, but it was also a very dry end of season."Nelson reported that sales for Giampietro's, Briar Rose and Empire Burger were up at least 20 percent from last year. "We were hoping for that," he said, "and we were hoping with the quality and amount of snow we got with the resort being open that we'd see that kind of uptick. We were ready for that."The Mug Shot Caf, conveniently located within the Alpine Sports ski rental shop, had the benefit of the skiers coming directly to it."We did have an increase, definitely, in customers last weekend compared to the week days," said manager Ellie Hartman. "It wasn't a huge difference but since we're connected to the Alpine Sports rental shop, it did make a difference when people were renting. That definitely made a good impact on us for the beginning of the mud season."When it comes to the snowfall in April, the numbers tell it all. According to data from the National Weather Service, the month of April has seen 31.2 inches so far this year, compared to only 16.2 inches last year. On average, from 1981 to 2011, April usually only gets about 27.7 inches. Other businesses noticed the increase in traffic down Main Street as well, though that didn't necessarily translate to sales. "There's definitely an increase of traffic, but I didn't see any increase in business," said Sheri Shelton, owner of Hand and Glove. "There were people walking around. I think it's hard for people to make a decision to buy something when it's snowing and they know in their head that it's coming into summer and they don't realize that our shops have a variety of things, so they don't think about buying anything."However, Shelton said she did feel that having more visitors around was a positive thing overall.Hub, another Breckenridge business, said that the increased number of people on the street was notable, with the weekend much busier compared to the rest of the week. While the extra snowfall and extra customer traffic have been great, some people and businesses are ready to move their sights on to summer. "Our sales were up this weekend over the weekend before. We definitely were busy," said Kelsey Lyons, owner of Which Wich? sandwich shop in Silverthorne, right off of Interstate 70. She is hoping that sunnier weather will come soon. "Now that the resorts are closed, we need it to be warmer, because that's what brings in the next round of people."
Snow gives local businesses a boost
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