Mad River Valley Courts Tourists Spooked by Flood
WAITSFIELD — As construction-zone orange threatens to mute the profitability of Vermont’s trademark foliage season, tourism officials in the Mad River Valley are working to ensure out-of-state visitors aren’t scared off by the surge of post-Irene highway projects.
With the exception of hard-hit Moretown, where displaced homeowners are still mucking out flood-ravaged properties, the four-town valley was largely spared the cataclysmic damage seen elsewhere in Vermont.
And that’s good news for a scenic region that, along with Stowe, anchors the central Vermont tourism and ski economy.
“We’re open. We’re accessible. And we’re ready for your visit,” says Susan Klein, executive director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Some businesses have experienced severe setbacks, Klein says. The Bridge Street Marketplace, a hub of commercial properties in downtown Waitsfield, suffered some of the heaviest damage. Flood damage has at least temporarily closed two restaurants, Mint and the Green Cup. A number of other businesses in low-lying areas along the Route 100 main drag also had to close temporarily or relocate business operations to higher floors.
In Warren, the high-end Pitcher Inn restaurant closed temporarily as a result of the floods but is set to reopen next weekend, according to area officials.
“Even though we have some very isolated pockets of destruction, we overall were very lucky,” Klein says.
At Sugarbush Resort, crews are still busy repairing a breach in the man-made pond that supplies water for the mountain’s snowmaking operation. Though the repairs could cost in excess of $500,000, Candace White, vice-president of marketing for Sugarbush, says resort executives are counting their blessings.
“We just feel very, very lucky to have come out as unscathed as we did,” White says.
Klein and White say business owners — those in the hospitality industry especially — have been contacting tens of thousands of prospective tourists via monthly newsletters, mailing lists and social media to underscore their open-for-business mantra.
“People want to know how they can help,” White says. “And what we’re saying is the best way to do that is to plan your foliage trip here.”
Outreach and marketing will be especially important, Klein says, given the high-profile damage to the signature Route 100 corridor that leads to the region.
In Granville, torrents chewed up entire sections of the scenic byway; motorists trying to access Warren from the south are subject to a 60-minute detour.
To the north, Route 100B in Moretown remains impassable.
“We’re on this very scenic Route 100,” Klein says. “But it’s a dotted line now.”
The board of the Mad River Valley Community Fund, created in 1989 to respond to the needs of area residents, has created a dedicated fund for flood relief (online at online at www.mrvcommunityfund.org) that has already drawn major contributions from local business.
Win Smith, owner of Sugarbush, donated $100,000 to the fund, according to White.
A Columbus Day weekend benefit concert — likely to be headlined by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, according to White — will also raise money for the fund.