RUMFORD – With the Canadian dollar, or loonie, on par with the American dollar, officials at two Maine ski resorts are expecting a surge in north-of-the-border visitors this winter.

Telephone interviews on Tuesday afternoon with Sunday River Ski Resort spokesman Alex Kaufman in Newry and Sugarloaf/USA spokesman Bill Swain in Carrabassett Valley revealed that both resorts doubled marketing efforts at ski shows this fall in Canada to attract Canadians after the loonie topped the U.S. dollar earlier this year.

“It’s a more attractive vacation to go to the U.S. when their dollar goes farther,” Kaufman said. “It’s the same way that Americans spend money in Canada when the American dollar is strong. It’s a way to get a different experience without hopping on a plane to come to the U.S. They have a desire to go south of the border.”

“Canadians, by and large, embrace their winter sports … and we’re a terrific option, especially when their dollar is as strong as it is now,” Swain said. “History bears out that when the Canadian dollar is strong, we have increased visitation from Canadians.”

Greg Sweetser, executive director of Ski Maine Association in Portland, took it a step further, saying that Maine ski resorts should also expect more European visitors because the English pound is much stronger than the American dollar.

“There is a ton of interest now,” Sweetser said. “It’s an international trip and one part of it is the ‘cool factor.’ My gut feeling is that both the pound and the Canadian dollar will remain fairly strong, so the foreseeable future bodes real well for us.”

Both resorts traditionally get socked by Canadians in March, though mainly by families, many of whom don’t mind the drive.

“They don’t blink an eye at driving 12 hours,” Kaufman said, although Sunday River and Sugarloaf/USA are within a four- to five-hour drive for millions of skiers in Quebec, Montreal and Boston, and 90 minutes from Sherbrooke, Quebec.

“March is our biggest month of the year for Canadians, because they have three break weeks in a row. It’s New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island, and everybody in families will come here to go skiing, and we tend to sell out in March,” Kaufman said.

“That’s three strong weekends that will only be stronger this year. Sugarloaf does a tremendous New Brunswick business, because it’s the closest big mountain to New Brunswick,” Sweetser added.

“Additionally, a lot of Canadian schools go on break for two weeks over Christmas, so we try to market for that, including a week in January when a lot of American schools are back in session,” Kaufman said.

“Traditionally, we get more than 50 percent of our visitors from Maine. The next big chunk is from the Massachusetts-greater Boston-and-New Hampshire area, and then Canada. But, as a whole, Atlantic Canadians and Quebecois are a very important segment of our season,” Swain said.

Of Sunday River’s half million skier visits annually, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island visitors account for the bulk, with 9 percent from New Hampshire and 5 percent from Canada, according to Kaufman

“We also market in the United Kingdom very heavily, because they like New England skiing. They don’t get altitude sickness like they do in the West and they like to shop. Come up here in March and look in our parking lots. You’ll think you’re in a different country,” Kaufman said.


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