|By Eric Anderson, Albany Times Union,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 14, 2008 --LAKE GEORGE -- It's been three decades since 1,000 Acres Ranch Resort last closed for the winter, and 45 years since Roaring Brook Ranch last shut down for the season.
This year, both will be dark until spring, thanks to higher energy costs and a slowing economy.
"This is the last weekend," said Jill Brock, who answered the phone Thursday at 1,000 Acres on Warrensburg Road in Stony Creek. "We're not filling the place."
At Roaring Brook, off Route 9N in Lake George, "We closed last Saturday night, Nov. 8," said George Greene, president and general manager. "We're primarily a summer resort. But there would be enough business for us to remain open in the winter months."
Not this year.
The winter business has dried up, and when heating oil spiked to $4 a gallon over the summer, that sealed the decision to close.
"I expect to use 8,000 gallons less of oil" with the resort closed, said Greene. At $2.75 a gallon, he will save $22,000 just on heating costs.
Other resorts in the Lake George region also are closing or shortening their winter schedules.
The Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterpark on Route 9 in Queensbury will be closed weekdays this winter -- except school vacations -- unless it already has booked overnight guests. And the Fort William Henry Resort and Conference Center in Lake George village will also limit its winter operations, said Kathy Flacke Muncil, its chief financial officer.
"We're tightening our schedule," she said, blaming a slower economy and gasoline prices, "which have gone up and down, up and down."
Several resorts counted on meeting and conference business to carry them through the slower months. But with companies cutting such costs in the wake of a deepening recession, and state agencies reducing their spending, there is less of that business to go around.
And many of the resorts are facing increased competition from new chain hotels.
"There's not enough business for all of us," said Roaring Brook's Greene. "There's a lot more hotel rooms than 10 years ago."
Todd Shimkus, president of the Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce in Glens Falls, said two or three new hotels have opened in each of the past three to four years.
"The Holiday Inn in Lake George added a whole new floor of suites," he said. And a new Hampton Inn & Suites opened right behind it.
Then there is a Wingate By Wyndham hotel near Water Slide World on Route 9 in Lake George, a Country Inn & Suites next to the Great Escape theme park in Queensbury, and Great Escape's own lodge with the indoor water park.
"For winter tourism, you never want to have any locations shutting down even temporarily," Shimkus said. "So that's a pretty good sign that advance bookings aren't as strong as in the past."
While Lake George, traditionally a summer destination, struggles, the picture is brighter in North Creek, a winter resort town next to the Gore Mountain Ski Area, a half hour north of Lake George.
There, the Copperfield Inn, a downtown inn with two restaurants, plans to reopen under new, local ownership this winter after being closed all last year. A wine bar opened downtown, and Casey's North, a restaurant that also was closed last year, is reopening.
"Gore Mountain is the economic engine in the winter," said state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury. She called the pending reopening of the Copperfield "really exciting," and expects North Creek will have a solid winter season.
That is, if there is snow in the cities, where the skiers live.
"I'm hoping that it's real snowy throughout the Capital District," said the chamber's Shimkus, and "as soon as possible."
Eric Anderson can be reached at 454-5323 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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