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      Snow business better than last year

      We're right in the middle of the biggest winter tourism weekend in the U.P. Despite concerns about a lower amount of snowfall than usual, business owners say things are looking good and even better than last year.

      In the Midwest, there's nobody that does snow business like the U.P. But, this year, the region has been waiting for snowfall, and although there isn't as much here as we're used to, we've got it while other places simply don't.

      "There really isn't any natural snow in Minneapolis, Chicago or Milwaukee," says Vice President of Marketing, Dave Nyquist. "Our guests are coming from that area, driving to the U.P."

      Indianhead Mountain's 400 lodges are fully booked this weekend. They say that's thanks to the 50 inches of snow they have received this year and an amped-up snowmaking effort. They were able to open for skiing Dec.3, a couple weeks later than usual.

      But, despite the late start to the snow season, they say business is good and that there's significantly more visitors than last year. They're hoping that could mean even better numbers to come this season.

      "We know we're going to get snow; it's more of a timing thing, when and where we're going to get it," Nyquist says.

      Western U.P. Visitors and Convention Bureau President Richard Swanson says the entire area has seen an increase in tourism, mostly coming for alpine and cross-country skiing.

      "Tourism is up. We're nowhere close to where we were five years ago, but the numbers are up from last year," says Swanson.

      But for now, snowmobiling tourism is down, and while more people are coming to the area, it doesn't necessarily mean all businesses are profiting.

      "A lot of places are running at reduced rates to bring people in," Swanson says. "Our revenues may not be up because of our reduced operating rates."

      For up-to-date information about the western U.P. tourism snow conditions, click here.