22-23 SEASON PASSES ON SALE
Charles Skinner, For USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin 7:33 a.m. CT Jan. 11, 2017
By the numbers, the proposed Granite Peak Ski Area expansion plan would be a boon to any of the 72 counties in Wisconsin. One-hundred-ninety new jobs. Over $26 million in added annual economic impact. Total post-expansion impact on the local economy of $54.1 million annually. As many as 100,000 new visitors to Marathon County each year.
And no requests for corporate tax credits or other allowances, and no risky incentives.
The expansion would, in fact, be a significant gain for the city and the county by any measure, and to realize this sort of economic impact without the typical incursion of high levels of carbon emissions is extraordinarily rare.
It’s important to remember that tourism dollars are deeply coveted by every county in Wisconsin. In 2015, visitors added nearly $230 million to the local economy, and Granite Peak was a significant catalyst behind that spending. If we are to increase tourism spending in the future (it gained 2.72 percent over the previous year), it is a certainty that Granite Peak will be one of the most important entities that will drive added tourism dollars.
On virtually every economic level, the Granite Peak expansion is a windfall for the 135,000 thousand residents of Marathon County. It’s an economic safety net, a growing tax base, and an all-but-certain assurance of a vibrant tourism future that 71 other Counties in Wisconsin would welcome if they could.
Beyond the economic impact, the recreational significance should not go unnoticed. Most assuredly, there are thousands of local season pass holders each year who rely on Granite Peak to satisfy their thirst for outdoor recreation, but beyond that, Granite Peak has become a prized ski area for families throughout the Midwest. It’s vitally important that we manage their expectations, make certain they return frequently, and show them, as we do every day, how energetic our community is.
Originally, were there environmental concerns? To be sure, but we have addressed these head-on and will continue to do so until the Department of Natural Resources completes its thorough due diligence. Have citizens expressed concerns about the expansion? Certainly. And over the last two years, we have listened intently, modified our plans, made accommodations, and will submit these changes to the DNR. We’re respectful of the citizen input and have every intention of being good neighbors and diligent stewards of the land, as we have been for 16 years, while at the same time being a powerful economic engine for the city, the county and the residents of the area, who have been, and continue to be, great supporters of Granite Peak, evidenced, no doubt, by tens of thousands of local season pass holders over the years, in addition to other local patrons who regularly utilize the facilities.
About 80 years ago, Rib Mountain opened its doors to skiing. Since its creation in 1900, the Wisconsin State Park System has received high praise, and rightfully so, for creating an extraordinary balance in providing outdoor enthusiasts with recreational opportunities from solitude to spirited. But not just a handful of recreationists: on the contrary, the Wisconsin State Parks System attracts over 16 million visitors each year, almost three times the State’s population.
With a keen eye on the ability to appeal to diverse audience interests, state parks offer the serenity of rustic campsites and natural grounds at Newport Beach State Park in Door County, to the highly energized Richard Bong State Recreational Area in Kenosha County that includes ATV trails, dog parks, model rocket launch sites, and even bird hunting areas. You see, the parks are for everyone, and the Wisconsin State Park System has recognized inclusivity, not just exclusivity.
Rib Mountain State Park is the embodiment of the inclusive nature of the Wisconsin State Parks System. A place where hikers, walkers, cyclists, snowshoers, bird watchers, families, and skiers and snowboarders — who, incidentally, are often avid hikers, too — recreate on the same remarkable gem of land as they have since the beginning, and will for decades more.
All of us will work together to keep it that way, understanding, of course, that spoiling the park in any form does no good to any single group. That’s abundantly clear to the professionals at the Department of Natural Resources who have assembled their top engineers, conservationists, biologists, groundwater specialists and many others to make certain the park remains as vital, vibrant and valuable tomorrow as it is today.
Some counties say we’re lucky. Others can’t believe our good fortune. But we know what they’re thinking. To have one of the most powerful economic engines as part of our landscape; a job-creating, tax-base-building tourism attraction; an amazing park that’s enjoyed by so many, with so many diverse interests, at our very doorstep, is remarkable. Maybe it is luck, but the employees, supporters and visitors to Granite Peak prefer to think of it more as a model for everything that’s right — right for the community, great for the economy, and the right way to listen, respect and improve our well being.
Charles Skinner is the owner and president of Granite Peak Ski Area.