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Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and other trail-oriented recreation are a huge draw for tourism in the North Woods, but today there is much more to the diversified winter business picture in many North Woods communities. We think it’s time the developers of that added economic development get the recognition they deserve.


No list of contributors will ever be complete and all encompassing, and for that, we apologize in advance. It’s not our intent to leave anyone out, but that possibility isn’t reason enough not to try.


One of the biggest economic boosts comes from the sport of hockey and especially the nine youth hockey tournaments sponsored and organized by the Eagle River Recreation Association. These all-weekend events bring in a lot of families and fill dozens of rooms throughout the area. Some lodging facility owners have commented that they aren’t sure how they would survive without those events.


The same sport also brings us the country’s ultimate pond hockey event, the Labatt Blue USA Hockey Pond Hockey Championships. Like the youth hockey tournaments, the condition of snowmobile and ski trails in the area have no bearing on the popularity of this growing event. The Eagle River Area Fire Department and the facilities offered by the Chanticleer Inn are vital to its success.


Eagle River’s list of extra winter events doesn’t stop there. The AMSOIL World Championship Snowmobile Derby, which includes a separate weekend of Vintage World Championship racing as a prelude to the big event, brings a monster economic boost that happens with or without good trails.


Then there is Klondike Days, a highly acclaimed winter family festival that draws some 8,000 people to the area — many for the entire weekend. Those overnight stays are the key to the tourism industry in general, providing added business to more than the accommodations industry.


You don’t have to look far outside Eagle River to find additional events and activities that draw weekend visitors. For more than 20 years, Three Lakes tavern owners have sponsored four-straight weeks of men’s and women’s pool tournaments that attract talented players and teams from across Wisconsin. St. Germain sponsors a very popular radar run that requires only a frozen lake surface, and Land O’ Lakes sponsors one of the largest sled-dog racing events in Wisconsin. Phelps, Conover, Sugar Camp and Three Lakes sponsor family fishing events that draw visitors regardless of snow conditions.


We hear people talk about the need for the tourism industry here to diversify in winter, in the event Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with enough snow for snowmobile and ski trails. But in many ways, that has already happened thanks to the efforts of farsighted business owners, chambers and community organizations.


Public awareness of these extra events is important because it would be unwise to take for granted all that is being done to help the tourism industry in winter. Anything that can be done to improve the four-season economic picture here is good for the long-term growth and well-being of the North Woods — which is important to all of us.

Behind the editorial ‘we’


Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch and Assistant Editor Anthony Drew.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 3:06 PM

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