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NW Wis. tourist spots hope winter business makes up for stormy summer

Tourism officials, resort owners and businesses are waiting for Northwestern Wisconsin to transform into a winter wonderland. They're hoping lower temperatures will soon mean more revenues up north. P.C. Rasmussen, owner of Lakewoods Resort and L...

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Tourism officials, resort owners and businesses are waiting for Northwestern Wisconsin to transform into a winter wonderland. They're hoping lower temperatures will soon mean more revenues up north.

P.C. Rasmussen, owner of Lakewoods Resort and Lodge in Cable, said most of their clients come up the day after Christmas. But he said they already have bookings through March and are hoping for more snow in the forecast.

"Everybody up here loves to see that and most of our guests love to see that. ... They can't wait to get in the car to get up here," he said.

Bayfield County tourism director Mary Motiff said they've been working hard with county, state and federal partners to prepare snowmobile and hiking trails that were damaged by summer storms and flooding.

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"The great news is that we have not only the reroutes in place that we needed, but also the trail repairs done ... along with the help from the clubs getting out there and doing the brushing and signing and all that work - we're going to be in great shape once we get some snow," she said.

Significant snow may be on the way for parts of the region starting today, as a prolonged period of lake-effect snow is expected for the South Shore snow belts of Bayfield, Ashland and Iron counties.

As of Tuesday night, the National Weather Service was forecasting 8-12 inches of snow for Hurley and the Gogebic Range of Iron County from tonight through Friday afternoon, with 4-8 inches for northern Bayfield and Ashland counties.

Still, Motiff said it's unlikely the snow will generate enough tourism business to make up for the loss in sales tax revenue by the end of the year. After storms left major wind and flood damage in July, Bayfield County saw a 10 percent dip in sales tax revenue in August compared to the same time last year. As of the end of November, sales tax revenue was down about $30,000 overall this year compared to 2015. But the county has seen more visitor spending in recent years after attracting international attention for the Lake Superior ice caves.

In Iron County, forest administrator Eric Peterson said the county's trails weren't hit as hard as areas to the west this past summer.

"We had five or six washouts on our trail system and a bunch of trees down, but our forestry department crew got out and got those taken care of," he said. "Our trail system will be open as soon as we get snow on it."

In Superior, Mac Sport and Marine co-owner John Cahill said the business has been servicing a lot of snowmobiles before winter hits with full force.

"Early in the season, people anticipate the cold weather coming and the snow, and it's pretty active. Then if we hit November and it's still not showing signs of winter, then it kind of slows a little bit," he said. "As soon as that first foot of snow comes, then it's crazy. Everybody's trying to get this running and get this fixed or coming in and buying a new ATV with a plow on it - things like that."

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In Bayfield, Mount Ashwabay ski area assistant manager Nick McGee said they've been getting skis and lifts ready before the snow falls.

"We put in two new lifts this year, so getting those set up. We've had an electrician out here volunteering his time to get electricity put into those," he said. "We're starting to look at making snow; (it's) starting to be the right weather for that - finally getting cold."

With highs forecast to be in the teens and 20s later this week, McGee said they should be making snow soon.

Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard in the Twin Ports at 91.3 FM or online at wpr.org/news .

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