When it comes to snowstorms, it’s typically feast or famine for businesses, unless you’re the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, in which case it’s complicated.
If you sell ice cream, unique jewelry, clothing or art, you can expect sales to sink, but snow-clearing businesses, local restaurants and outdoor stores ring up the sales.
D&SNG may incur some immediate snow-related expenses, but it pales in comparison to a good spring runoff that will lessen the risk of wildfires like last year’s 416 Fire that stopped the train from running to Silverton for more than 40 days.
Helped by snowCaleb Harrington, manager and investor at Steamworks Brewing Co., said snow generally brings winter tourists, and that helps the bottom line.
“People are visiting Purgatory, and after a day of skiing or snowshoeing or whatever winter activity, they have to come in and have a beer and some food,” Harrington said.
Jason Davenport, owner of Rocky Top Painting & Construction, is hiring. He’s up to three snowplow drivers and eight workers on a shovel crew to handle a backlog of jobs that take between 16 hours and 24 hours a day to complete.
“This is great. It helps keep people employed, and it pays the bills in winter, when things can be kind of sparse,” he said.
Chase LaCroix, co-owner of Durango Outdoor Exchange, a consignment store, smiles when he sees snow flying.
“People realize they’re not prepared for the conditions or they’re looking to upgrade, and it’s always cheaper if you can find something secondhand,” he said. “Tourists are usually caught off guard. They don’t realize the town can get a lot of snow, too; it’s not just the mountains.”
At this time last year, La Croix said the shop already had stored its skis and snowboards and was displaying bicycles.
Hurt by the snowHaley Nichols, manager of There’s No Place Like Home, said outside of Christmas, when snow works its magic on holiday shoppers, heavy storms hurt business – normal downtown foot traffic falls off a cliff.
The store may cut sales staff hours during a storm, but usually people call in to report they can’t make it to the shop, Nichols said.
“We can pretty much count on a slow day when it snows,” she said.
At Cream Bean Berry, an ice cream shop in the 1000 block of Main Avenue, owner Katie Burford said, “Our sales go in lock step with the temperature.”
The silver lining of a good snow year will be spring break in March, when Burford said spring breakers from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona will be in town to catch some spring skiing.
It’s complicated for D&SNGHeavy snow has led the D&SNG to cancel daily winter runs to Cascade Canyon from Thursday to Saturday as crews clear tracks, but Christian Robbins, D&SNG marketing director, said no one with the train is complaining.
The cancellations meant several hundred passengers received refunds, but Robbins said it is unusual for storms to bring so much snow that daily runs are canceled.
When storms do force closures, D&SNG spends $6,000 per run for a special snow-clearing train with no passengers aboard. The winter maintenance train includes a car with a flanger, a huge, heavy blade to clear snow alongside tracks.
Generally, though, snow is celebrated at the train depot.
“We just had our first photography runs, and snow is highly popular,” Robbins said. “People want to get photos of the train running in the snow, and they want the winter backdrop. They post it all over Facebook and Instagram. It really sells our region.”
At the end of the day, Robbins said, winter snow ensures good spring runoff and minimizes the wildfire danger in summer, the train’s main season.
“You know, it’s a lot of work when it snows this much,” Robbins said, “but there’s not one person here at the train that’s complaining about it.”