By Mike Schneider
The music in a company video certainly sounds dramatic as Mountain Creek opened for the season, but the big drama lays in the surrounding town of Vernon where ski tourism helps to balance the budget.
“The ski area and the ski season represents 50 percent of the activity and thereby 50 percent of the economic activity that is generated in Vernon Township,” said Vernon Township Mayor Victor Marotta.
And that is why cold, snowy days are so important to this town.
But it is days like these that cause so much concern because they have been making snow up here and there has been some natural snow as well. But when the rain comes and it’s coming right now, it washes away a lot of their hard work and a lot of money in the process.
“If the weather doesn’t cooperate, it’s devastating,” said Marotta.
And not just for the town government. Local businesses are counting on visiting skiers too.
“We go from very quiet — like you can see now — to in the middle of ski season, there’s a line of people out the door. If it rains, everybody stays home,” said Pizza Station co-owner. Bree Thomson.
The mayor says Vernon gets a million tourist visits a year. Good thing since the recession and environmental restrictions have all but killed local home building.
“That was the mayor in Vernon in 1986 and in those days it was a part-time job and my brother and I were in the concrete company, concrete business using concrete in Sussex County. And I can tell you from my own corporate records that we were building 400 new homes a year in Vernon Township at that time,” said Marotta. “Well, I have been the mayor this go around since July of 2011 and we’ve built three new homes.”
So they’re hoping that Mountain Creek’s plans to expand brings in even more visitors. And then there is talk of a casino.
“We’re not interested in turning Vernon into Atlantic City, but we recognize what’s necessary for a destination resort. Gambling is part of it today. It’s part of our world,” said Marotta.
And that’s a world that doesn’t rely upon Mother Nature.