A terrific piece of journalism today in a small town paper, the Hood River News. It’s a close look at the economic impacts of this season’s anemic snowfall, a subject we’ve been following this winter. The article puts some hard numbers to the story of shuttered ski areas in Hood River County, Oregon.

Here’s a look at Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort (which is just one of many struggling ski areas in the Northwest). By the numbers:

Employees, January 2004: 1000-plus

Employees, January 2005: 47

Payroll, typical year: $4.5 million

Payroll, this year: $1.5 million

Ski visitors last year: 350,000

Ski visitors this year: 76,000

Without skiers, receipts shrink for eateries, hotels, and even beer-makers. The losses add up, especially when you multiply the effects by the dozen or so ski resorts along the Cascades. Sadly, the consequences for rural ag-dependent counties like Hood River may be more serious than lost ski revenue. Low snowpack in the winter means less water in the summer for economic staples like apples, cherries, and pears.

Last week was predicted to bring new snow and a chance for late-season re-openings, but the weather forecasts were wrong. At the moment, it’s 39 degrees at the Summit at Snoqualmie, which will likely stay shuttered until next winter. At Mt. Hood, the National Weather Service is currently predicting highs into the mid- and upper-40s for the rest of the week.