Already slow winter tourism made slower with warm weather in the Hills

Melting icicle at Lewie's Burgers & Brews in Lead, SD.
Melting icicle at Lewie's Burgers & Brews in Lead, SD.(Jeffrey Lindblom)
Published: Feb. 17, 2022 at 5:21 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Tourism is a large part of the Hills economy, attracting people from all over the nation, and even world, to places like Mount Rushmore during the summer.

The winter months, however, attract people for other reasons like hiking, snowmobiling and skiing. Things that rely on cold weather and snow that the Hills currently isn’t seeing.

“The last couple years have been down quite significantly,” says Lewie Sternhagen, Owner of Lewie’s Burgers & Brews.

Problem is, Sterhagen says winter in the Hills attracts people who like to play in the snow, “skiing and snowmobiling, vacation rentals are a big deal. There’s a lot of them up the road and they come down here and they eat our burgers.”

He says while generally summer brings more business, the winter is usually alright, because “limited snow is limited snow.” In this case, it’s nice Terry Peak has been doing a good job blowing fake snow.

“We’ve got some good conditions,” says Linda Derosier, Terry Peak’s Marketing Director, “despite what you might see in your backyard.”

She says the season’s been decent, because “we’ve made a lot of good snow in the most important areas.” Just enough to open up just about every run, where they’ve had less time to do so as of late, because “it seems like our seasons get a little later start each year.”

What used to commonly be a Thanksgiving time frame has been pushed further and further into December year by year. Derosier explains that’s due to “our snow coming later and the cold weather is coming a little later. So it might be changing, or we’re adjusting our thinking when it comes to our season.”

Even though snowy weather so far this year has been on the slow side, they’re expecting with the holiday just ahead that things will pick up.

“This is President’s Day weekend coming up. So,” Derosier says, “we’ll see a lot of people coming from all over the area.”

More people on the slopes, more hungry for a final hamburger hoo-rah.

“This is the last three day weekend where people can come up and enjoy the Hills,” says Sternhagen. “So, this is a big weekend. Very big.”

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