LAKE PLACID - The top executive at the state Olympic Regional Development Authority says unseasonably warm weather took its toll on visitor numbers during the 2011-12 winter season.
Speaking at ORDA's annual meeting Tuesday afternoon, President and CEO Ted Blazer confirmed what many already knew: this past winter was a tough one for ORDA venues. He said total visitors this year were down about 16.8 percent compared to the 2010-11 winter season, while revenues declined by approximately 14.9 percent.
"We combatted that with reduced spending, but it was tough to make up the dollar loss," Blazer said.
The 2011-12 winter season was highlighted by higher-than-average temperatures and low-snowfall totals. That hurt business in a region that depends on winter tourism, although skiing across New England wasn't much better.
Blazer said ORDA saved money on electrical costs at venues like Gore Mountain Ski Center in North Creek by using new, energy-efficient snow guns.
Despite poor conditions for much of the winter, Blazer said ORDA was able to make the best of it.
"Even with the weather, we fulfilled our mission by operating at the highest level possible and administering multiple world, national and regional events, most notably the world championships in bobsled and skeleton," he said. "We hosted also several winter challenge events for top world and national companies. In spite of it all, we received no less than nine international and national top ratings."
Blazer said ORDA is working to control staffing costs and operational purchasing. He said the authority is also using staff members for capital projects to offset personnel services expenses.
There is some good news looking forward to next winter, Blazer said.
"Season pass sales are up - they're up by $17,000 - but nonetheless they're up," he said.
Blazer said despite the weather, ORDA staff did a fantastic job preparing venues and running events and programs.
The summer season has already been busy, Blazer said. The town of Wilmington and ORDA recently hosted the Wilmington/Whiteface 100K, a qualifying race for the nationally-renowned Leadville bike race in Colorado. More than 350 people competed in the event, which Wilmington town Supervisor Randy Preston said was a great success.
At Gore, ORDA has added amenities and events aimed at attracting passengers from a tourist train in North Creek, including a bungee jump, climbing wall, miniature golf, disc golf, nature walks, gondola rides and mountain biking.
In the Lake Placid area, ORDA will continue facilitating traditional events like the Lake Placid Summer Figure Skating Championship and Dance Competition, Saturday night ice shows and Soaring Saturdays at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex.