Green and Gold Foliage: White Mountains Attractions Expects Great Summer to Continue into Fall

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I think families were trying to make up for time lost the last couple years, due to both the weather and the economy, and get some valuable 'family time' together.

There is still a lot of 'season' left up here in the mountains, as nearly all of our attractions will be open right through fall, the foliage season, and into mid or late-October

Stellar summer weather put people in the mood to vacation and for attractions in New Hampshire's White Mountains, it translated into a boost in business they expect to continue into the fall season.

"To say that it’s been a great summer would be an understatement," said Jayne O'Connor, president of White Mountains Attractions, which markets 16 attractions in the region. "It’s been great for the visitors to the mountains, and for the tourism economy up here in the mountains. People found that loads of sun, loads of warm weather, and a chance to reconnect can really be good for your well-being."

Attractions have all seen an increase in their business numbers, attributable to several factors, O'Connor said.

"I think families were trying to make up for time lost the last couple years, due to both the weather and the economy, and get some valuable 'family time' together. I really noticed, here at the White Mountains Visitor Center, that not only were the numbers higher this year, but that we saw a wider variety of visitors had this year from everywhere– from New England, the mid-western states, the mid-Atlantic states, and from many of the European countries."

Jeff Woodward, owner of Woodward's Resort in Lincoln, is seeing his business, which he reports is up 15 percent over last year, bounce back from two factors that have challenged the region in recent years. "Woodward's resort has enjoyed a busy summer season with numbers approaching summers of old," he said. "We have seen numbers we used to before the economy turned several year ago."

At the Mount Washington Cog Railway in Bretton Woods, business is up 25 percent over last year, according to Cathy Bedor, one of the partners. "The balance of the season, including Labor Day, is so far ahead in advance ticket sales that we have already added additional trains to the schedule," she said.

On the other side of Mount Washington, Howie Wemyss, general manager of the Mount Washington Auto Road, called the summer of 2010 "one of the best seasons we've had in 10 years." He added, "If foliage season is strong we’ll be very happy with 2010."

For attractions that added new rides, they report their visitors responded favorably. At the Whale's Tale in Lincoln, which added its Shipwreck Island feature this season, Woodward said the biggest expansion of the park in years "help propel us to record numbers" and the park expects to not only exceed last year's numbers by about 30 percent, but to beat its record year by 17 percent. At Attitash in Bartlett, construction on its new Nor'easter Mountain Coaster is expected to wrap up soon and with its signature Oktoberfest event over Columbus Day weekend, spokesman Doug Tulin expects the great summer season to spill over into fall.

Two attractions that carry visitors to the tops of mountains report ridership was on the rise throughout the summer. The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tram in Franconia Notch is already 11 percent ahead of last year, said general manager John DeVivo. At the Flume Gorge, ticket revenue is ahead 8 percent ahead of all of last season, with foliage season coming up. The Wildcat Express scenic gondola in Pinkham Notch has a 10 percent increase in riders this year, said marketing director Thomas Prindle.

Also at Wildcat, the popular ZipRider carries the maximum number of riders on most days. "As we head in to the Labor Day weekend and remain open daily until Oct.17, I hope that we can continue to see some of the positive numbers, that also include an increase in food and retail sales, in to the fall and the popular foliage season," Prindle said.

Looking ahead to the fall foliage season, tourism operators are confident the summer of green will continue into an autumn of gold. "There is still a lot of 'season' left up here in the mountains, as nearly all of our attractions will be open right through fall, the foliage season, and into mid or late-October," O'Connor said. "We’ve had plenty of moisture up here all summer, unlike southern New Hampshire, so we’re looking forward to excellent fall colors."

White Mountains Attractions, founded in 1958, is the marketing association for 16 attractions within the White Mountains region, including Attitash, Cannon Mountain, Clark’s Trading Post, the Cog Railroad, the Conway Scenic Railroad, Flume Gorge, the Hobo Railroad, Loon Mountain, Lost River Gorge, Mount Washington Auto Road, Polar Caves, Santa’s Village, Six Gun City, Story Land, Whale’s Tale and Wildcat Mountain.

For information about the White Mountains, the visitors’ center is located off exit 32 on Interstate 93 in North Woodstock; visit http://www.visitwhitemountains.com or call 800-FIND-MTS.

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