Ontario Resort Owners: Forced to Find Ways to Attract Clientele Despite Mild Winter

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The winter of 2006/2007 will go down on record as one of the mildest ever; thus, forcing resort owners to creatively find new clientele to fill the winter booking void.

The winter of 2006/2007 will go down on record as one of the mildest ever; thus, forcing resort owners to creatively find new clientele to fill the winter booking void.

On a daily basis, temperatures during the first week of January exceeded every previous record. Canadian resort areas have suffered through spells of unseasonably warm weather during past winters, but until this winter, they have always had enough snow to stay open. As well, in previous years, most lakes are solidly frozen over by mid-January and are dotted with ice fishing huts.

The lack of both snow and cold weather has been a disaster for many traditional outdoor activities including snowmobling, cross-country skiing, alpine skiing and ice fishing. For some tourist and winter-based industries, Ontario's unseasonably mild weather has forced closures and lay-offs. Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood, Ontario is the areas largest ski resort and was forced to lay off 1,300 workers this week as it shut down for the first time in its 65-year history. Over Christmas and New Years weeks', Ontario winter resort saw their room occupancy rate drop a whopping 40% from the same period last year.

The unseasonably mild temperatures that we have been experiencing of late may be wreaking havoc with some in the tourist industry, but certainly not all. Savvy Canadian resort business owners who usually rely on cold weather and lots of snow for their businesses have come up with some rather ingenious ways to attract and keep customers coming.

In the Haliburton Highlands, a resort area located approximately two hours northeast of Metropolitan Toronto, many businesses rely on tourists both in the winter and summer. Blessed with an abundance of lakes, forests and wilderness, the Haliburton Highlands usually has enough winter activities to satisfy the most enthusiastic outdoorsman; including 100 km of groomed Nordic ski trails, 700 km of groomed snowmobile trails, downhill skiing and snowboarding at Sir Sam's Ski Area, ice-fishing and dog sledding. The lack of snow this winter has, by necessity, caused Ontario Canadian resort owners and businesses that specialize in winter-based activities to come up with some creative alternatives for their guests.

Ontario resort owners, Don and Marie Gage of Willow Beach Cottages (http://www.willowbeach.com) on Lake Kashawigamog in the Haliburton Highlands state that, "The lack of snow should not adversely impact our business at Willow Beach, because we believe that city folk can be enticed to get out of the city whether there is snow or not. They take pleasure in the beauty of nature here by the lake. People get a kick out of the real wood-burning fireplaces in our cottages and many come to simply enjoy a romantic getaway or spa weekend. We had a terrific Christmas and New Years week. Since there wasn't any snow, guests were able to walk and bike along the many nearby trails. They came back after their walks in the balmy weather exhilarated."

Lack of snow this winter has also not been a problem for those at Willow Beach who are just a short drive from the Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve. The internationally acclaimed Haliburton Forest is home to hundreds of miles of trails for snowmobiles, ATVs and Nordic skiing. Unlike many areas, the Forest permits ATVs to use their trails year round, allowing motorized outdoor enthusiasts to take to the trails even when there is no snow on the ground. Always innovative, the Haliburton Forest has had to make some changes to its extremely popular dog sledding business to accommodate the lack of snow. With multiple bookings over the holiday season and no snow in sight, they came up with the bright idea to hitch up their dog teams to carts instead of sleighs.

The recent arrival of snow and cold temperatures this week was most welcome in the Haliburton Highlands where winter activities such as Nordic and downhill skiing and dog sledding - with sleighs, can again be enjoyed as in past winters. However, with the threat of global warming looming in the future, winter-based businesses and industries that have traditionally relied on the cold and snow for business might have to make some changes if they want to keep their accommodation occupancies up. Betting on an adequate supply of snow and cold weather is no longer a sure thing from many areas in southern Ontario. Diversification and adaptation may be the buzzwords for surviving in the new millennium.

About Willow Beach Resort

Willow Beach Resort, only two hours from Toronto, offers Haliburton cottage rentals on beautiful Lake Kashagawigamog, part of the most desirable 5 lake chain in Haliburton County. To learn more about Willow Beach Resort cottages, on-site amenities, and activities, which provide the ideal location for family vacations, romantic couple getaways or girls weekend or guys weekend trips, please visit http://www.willowbeach.com or call 1-800-656-9067.


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Marie & Don Gage
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