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Our View: What does no-snow tourism look like?

1:59 PM, Feb. 11, 2013  |  Comments
Tomahawk depends on consistent snowfall to spur tourism.
Tomahawk depends on consistent snowfall to spur tourism.
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The East Coast was slammed by a blizzard late last week, but this weekend in north central Wisconsin it was mostly a freezing drizzle that coated the area. This winter has been better for snow than many, but melting snow or a dearth of it has real effects on the economy in Wisconsin.

Winter is big business in our part of the world. We see it locally: A new snowfall leads directly to a rush at stores like Shepherd & Schaller or others selling cold-weather gear. It leads to a busy weekend on the slopes at Granite Peak Ski Area.

The same principle works in reverse. Every mild month and every slushy weekend costs money to those whose livelihoods depend on active snowmobile trails and ski seasons. For cities that depend on snowy tourism, the weather can be the difference between a boom or a bust.

The city of Tomahawk has felt the effects of reduced snowfall in recent years. Last week, leaders there convened to brainstorm and form strategies about alternative ways to attract tourism.

It is a worthwhile conversation to have, and many of the ideas discussed at Tomahawk's meeting - everything from playing host to weekend events and sports tournaments to improving roads and broadband infrastructure - are important steps toward growth in the north regardless of what kinds of winters we get. In fact, in some respects the lack of snow was, more than anything else, an occasion for a broader discussion of long-term economic development strategies. That is the type of thinking our leaders at every level often do too little of, and Tomahawk deserves credit for looking ahead.

But it is striking that it was a necessary conversation in the first place. It would not have been long ago at all that the notion that Tomahawk had too little snow would have been unthinkable.

Here's something that wasn't part of Tomahawk's discussion: global climate change. Sure, some people remain skeptical about the phenomenon. But when an entire city in northern Wisconsin is holding a meeting about what to do without snow, the real-world evidence is hard to deny. Maybe people feel the problem is intractable - and indeed, given our gridlocked political system, progress on climate change legislation seems far-fetched right now. But it seems to us that the topic should at least be a part of the discussion.

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