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Could Western South Dakota weather impact tourism?

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ski lift(Aleah Burggraff)
Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 5:40 PM MST
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BLACK HILLS, S.D. (KEVN) - Warm weather and no snow are two things some might love to see going into December, but not everyone.

Black Hills tourism, one the largest industries in western South Dakota, could hit a few bumps this winter season with warmer temperatures than usual.

“We’re not sure how much it would affect tourism in the Black Hills if we don’t get a lot of snow. It will certainly have an impact and it will definitely impact those businesses that rely on winter sports,” said Michelle Thomson, President of Black Hills and Badlands Tourism.

Terry Peak is one of those businesses and they postponed their opening date, which was originally set for this weekend. Now, they don’t know when they’ll open.

But Linda Derosier, Marketing Director for Terry Peak, said the issue isn’t necessarily the lack of snow, it’s the warm weather.

“The snow makers are making snow whenever possible. They made it last night for just a couple of hours. Whenever our temperatures are 28 or under, that’s when they can make the snow,” said Derosier.

“We’re absolutely drier than usual, especially over the past 30 days. We’re on the order of 10-30 percent of our average precipitation over the past month and so, conditions out on the landscape are exceptionally dry,” said Darren Clabo, South Dakota’\s State Fired Meteorologist.

However, Thomson said while it is warm out visitors will be able to enjoy the other activities the hills have to offer.

“If we don’t have a lot of snow, our outdoor recreations still do really well. People are coming out to do hiking and outdoor activities.” said Thomson.

However, that warm weather could always change.

“We’re notorious for the variability on the landscape. We get these big snow systems, then it’s warm then back to cold. That’s normal for us and so the variability that were seeing right now with the dry conditions is pretty normal, it’s not unexpected, but going forward we’re definitely hoping for more precipitation,” said Clabo.

Derosier, for one, remains optimistic.

“So, hopefully, we’ll be able to get going, get some weather coming, some cold weather, be able to make some snow. With South Dakota, you just never know. It could get cold next week and everything could change. We’ve run into this before, we’ll just be patient and when it starts coming along, we’ll have a lot of snow and we’ll have a lot of skiing for everyone,” said Derosier.

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