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November 05. 2012 8:46PM

Tourism posts big numbers in New Hampshire's White Mountains

The Mount Washington Cog Railway, which concludes its 143rd year on Dec. 2, had record ridership, according to one of its owners. (COURTESY)

WOODSTOCK - Fueled by lots of sunshine, and an improving economy, it was a record-setting year for many of the 16 members of White Mountain Attractions.

"After several years of visitors and businesses really watching their budgets, the 2012 season saw an increase in consumer confidence, which was further boosted by a summer of near-perfect weather," said Jayne O'Connor, president of White Mountains Attractions.

Founded in 1958, White Mountains Attractions markets Attitash Mountain Resort, Cannon Mountain, Clark's Trading Post, the Conway Scenic Railroad, Flume Gorge, the Hobo Railroad, Loon Mountain, Lost River Gorge, Mount Washington Auto Road, the Mt. Washington Cog Railroad, Polar Caves, Santa's Village, Six Gun City, Story Land, Whale's Tale Water Park and Wildcat Mountain.

"A record year like this pays dividends in years to come," O'Connor said. "It gives attraction owners confidence to renovate and expand, which will bring new visitors, provide jobs and allow them to continue being assets in their communities."

The Mount Washington Cog Railway, which concludes its season on Dec. 2, had record ridership, according to Catherine Bedor, one of the owners. She said group business is 25 percent ahead of last year.

Domestic bus tours were strong throughout the foliage season, with arrivals from as far away as the Midwest and Alaska. New regulations that eased duty-free restrictions brought an influx of Canadian visitors to the region, especially to the outlet shopping centers in North Conway. Other international visitors also increased, with higher numbers noted from The Netherlands, Israel and many Asian countries this year.

While most of the gates are closed until spring, several attractions remain open including the Conway Scenic Railroad and the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln. Santa's Village in Jefferson reopens Nov. 17 for the Christmas holiday.

Santa's Village had an exceptional season, said spokesman Bruce Hicks.

"The number of guests for our 60th summer exceeded our expectations and, based on advanced ticket sales online and on reports from our lodging partners with package reservations, we're anticipating a bustling Christmastime celebration," Hicks said. "We've already put up thousands of the Christmas lights that really transform the park in the dark, and we're busy developing a new feature synchronizing some of the lights to music to bring our light show up to the next level during the holiday season."

O'Connor said the attractions' participation in travel shows in Europe have established the region as a destination for European visitors, especially from The United Kingdom, France and Germany.

"They enjoy this time of year and they have time to travel here," she said. "The White Mountains are also the place to go for people who enjoy paying a visit at this quiet time of the year."

For more information, call 800-346-3687 or go to VisitWhiteMountains.com.

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