It's cold, but where's the snow?
Where's the snow? Residents and area businesses have been asking this question for almost two months now, and there seems to be no forecast of the powdery stuff in sight. Snowmobilers are traveling elsewhere in the region, restaurants that rely o...
Where's the snow?
Residents and area businesses have been asking this question for almost two months now, and there seems to be no forecast of the powdery stuff in sight. Snowmobilers are traveling elsewhere in the region, restaurants that rely on cold weather business are seeing less patrons and retailers are seeing slumping sales. The affect of the "odd" weather is snowballing into bad news for a lot of area folks.
"Whenever anyone comes in to buy a snowmobile, they have to go out of town to ride it and find snow," said Kim Napoli, co-owner of Northern Kawasaki on Highway 33 in Cloquet. "We're still having sales, but they're down. When there's no snow, it's tough to sell snowmobiles."
Napoli said their sales of cold-weather clothing has also taken a considerable hit.
"We've had warm and non-snowy winters in the past, but this year has been pretty bad," said Napoli. "Clothing sales have been down 40 percent because it's simply too warm. I would say we're down about 30 percent on our overall sales. Even when a winter is considered 'mild,' it eventually comes around. This winter just hasn't been cooperating. Last year was pretty mild, but because of some decent snowfall, we had a spurt before Christmas, which was really good. This year, with it being much warmer and all the brown, the sales just aren't there."
A major snowmoblie corridor runs along the Moose Lake, Barnum, Mahtowa and Carlton portion of the Munger Trail. Normally traffic on this trail is fairly steady, but this year there simply isn't enough snow pack, which makes for poor trail conditions. For the Elmwood Inn, located between Mahtowa and Carlton on County Road 61 in Atkinson, the lack of measurable snow hasn't hurt the restaurant terribly -- but there's still enough of a dip in business to catch the attention of owner Susan Leon.
"Of course, we notice the impact of not having as many snowmobilers," said Leon. "But I've been here so long. I'd like to think people come in anyway. But it's made a noticeable impact."
Due to the unseasonably warm temps, area rinks and lakes have seen very few skaters and fishermen. Temperatures have been below zero since Friday, allowing a few lakes to freeze - but area conservation officers are still saying they may not be thick enough for "regular season use." According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' District 8 Weekly Conservation Officer's reports for Jan. 14, Conservation Officer Jeff Humphrey (Cloquet) reported ice conditions have finally begun to improve with the recent cold weather in the area, and fellow Conservation Officer Dale Ebel (Duluth) echoes Humphrey's report - with a bit of a warning.
"Ice conditions are improving with the cold weather, but just don't assume it is safe because someone else is driving on the ice," states Ebel on the Minnesota DNR Web site. "Take the time to check ice depth before venturing out."
Two weeks ago, a measurable snowfall coated Carlton County with about five inches of new snow. Unfortunately, all but about an inch of it melted away, which brings hope to people like Napoli, but the clock's ticking.
"My husband always keeps the faith and says, 'Yes, we will get snow,'" said Napoli. "But if we keep seeing it in little increments, pretty soon we're going to blink and it'll be spring. Hopefully this year is the exception, and not the rule, not only for our business - but we're big on winter activities. That's why we live here!"
Pine Journal Editor Mat Gilderman can be contacted at: email@example.com .