News Column

Cold Snap Means Hot Business for Some

Jan. 25, 2013

James Haggerty

Snow

Consumers may gripe about the cold snap gripping the region, but companies that prosper in frigid weather are making up for lost business during last year's mild winter.

Last January, the ski base at Elk Mountain near Union Dale averaged about 24 inches, general manager Greg Confer said. Now, it's up to 48 inches in places, he said, and skier visits have soared.

"I'll bet we are up 20 or 25 percent over last year," Confer said. "We have a ton of snow. The conditions are unbelievable."

The impact from current arctic conditions creates more traffic for ski complexes and ski rental and sales shops, and demand rises for heating oil, plumbing services and products that push snow and melt ice.

Many businesses selling snow- and ice-removal compounds had inventory left over from the historically mild winter of 2011-12, said John Wesolowski, vice president at Milazzo Industries in Jenkins Township, which manufactures Qik Joe ice melt.

A month into this winter, he said, that backlog has disappeared.

"We are seeing some good, brisk sales," Wesolowski said. "It's up considerably from the year prior because of the absent winter last year."

Many municipalities and consumers were not ready for winter conditions before a Jan. 16 storm dropped about 4 inches of snow in the region, said Jim Flynn, president F&S Supply Co., a Dickson City vendor of snowplow equipment and mechanical instruments.

"Everybody waited and waited. Nobody was prepared," Flynn said. "We got busy then."

At Bear Creek Ski Shack on Montage Mountain Road in Moosic, general manager Lee Ann Mitchell has been busy satisfying rising demand for cross-country ski equipment.

Discounted ski prices at nearby the Sno Mountain complex also help drive business, Mitchell said.

"We have noticed an increase in tuneups and rentals and things like that," she said.

Heating oil orders spiked this week as subfreezing temperatures lingered, said Ken Santarelli, manager at Santarelli & Sons Oil Co. in Blakely.

"The calls have definitely doubled, compared to last week and last January," Santarelli said.

The company had seven oil trucks on the road making home deliveries on Thursday and eight tankers distributing fuel to suppliers, Santarelli said.

"Everybody needs the fuel now," he said.

Some plumbers were backed up with calls related to emergency heating needs.

"The biggest issue is, all the calls come in at the same time," said Wayne Pisanchyn, who runs a Clarks Summit plumbing business.

Extreme cold periods lasting at least three days lead to a spike in heating unit breakdowns, he said. Wednesday was the third straight day when low temperatures dipped into single digits or below zero.

"Anything three days in a row, everything changes," he said. "The third day, it's just bonkers."

Pisanchyn said he and an employee work into the evenings all week. Some customers with routine calls, such as dripping faucets, may face service delays, he admitted.

"We do have some of those that we put off," he said.

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



Source: (c) 2013 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)