Snow money

Not everything can be judged by economic impact; silliness can be its own reward

As the Herald reported Feb. 17, nobody really knows the exact impact Snowdown has on Durango’s economy, which stands to reason. Nobody really knows what Snowdown is about in the first place.

And that is just fine. At least, in terms of dollars and cents, some of life’s finer things are pointless. A lot things humans do for enjoyment can be seen as pointless by almost any measure. Except, of course, that people have fun, and that fills a human need.

For one thing, some of the usual economic measures are difficult to apply. Snowdown happens in January and February, which complicates month-to-month and year-to-year comparisons. Sales and lodgers tax revenue – two of the most commonly cited gauges for tourism – were up for the first two months of 2010 and 2011, but had been down in January and February of 2008 and 2009. Given the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, the higher numbers in the next two years might simply be a return to more normal times. They could also be tied to weather or the success of those year’s Snowdowns. They may mean nothing at all.

Besides, sales and lodgers taxes are only one measurement. Anecdotal but convincing evidence suggests bar owners do well during Snowdown. And while drinking may not be something the city wants to tout, it too is economic activity.

It is also probably fair to say that some city employees families benefited from a little overtime during Snowdown. No one got rich, but the city did spend about $2,200 on overtime for 20 employees who worked the parade.

Snowdown itself circulated a little cash. The organization had a budget of around $65,000, most of which covered its own expenses such as insurance, posters and fliers. About $6,000 went to the city for its costs, which presumably means the direct effect on the taxpayers was a wash.

And from a strictly economic perspective, that is about all that matters. The taxpayers should not have to subsidize a party – although it should not be forgotten that the revelers are taxpayers, too.

But neither should Snowdown be judged as if it were a business. That was never the idea. So what if it is not easy to point to some statistic and show its economic benefits?

The economic health of Durango’s downtown and measures such as the sales and lodgers taxes are crucial. But their importance is as a means to foster and ensure the well-being and ultimately the happiness of the community. And if, for some folks, that happiness includes a parade on a winter night – or a stripper-pole contest, for that matter – well, that counts, too.