Snowmobiling is a major contributor to Minnesota's recreation economy, but this year has pretty much been a wash, and this week's snow was too little, too late, and too wet and heavy for good riding.
Nonetheless Dustin Hoflock took his snowmobile out for a spin around Lynd on Wednesday.
"It's been terrible," Hoflock said. "We had three inches, but it's not enough to go riding, and it's too wet. But I'm going one more time before the snow melts for the rest of the year."
Photo by Steve Browne
Zac Almjeld went snowmobiling on Wednesday morning in Lynd, although the wet and heavy snow made riding difficult.
His neighbor Zac Almjeld also geared up to ride, but agreed conditions weren't ideal.
"It's hard to drive in," Almjeld said.
As one might imagine, snowmobile sales haven't been the best.
"Sales actually got off to a good start," said Mark Pedersen, a salesman at Action Sports, "but by the end of December they faded away when it became evident we'd have a brown Christmas."
Pedersen said a lot of people were buying side-by-side four-wheelers, probably figuring that an investment in an all-season vehicle makes more sense right now.
Doug Anderson is president of the local chapter of the Southwest Ridgerunners snowmobile club. The Ridgerunners own and maintain two trail groomers funded through the gas tax and trail fees, administered by the state Department of Natural Resources through the county. Last year the Ridgerunners traded up to a new groomer, but the $100,000 machines are still sitting in the lot behind the Marshall Machine Shop.
"We've got two groomers parked all winter," Anderson said, "and we still have to make payments on them. It's too late in the season to groom."
Brent Jurrens works in the repair department of Marshall Small Engine.
"It's been really slow, and sales have been down," Jurrens said. "People don't ride them enough to fix them. It's pretty late in the season but we were looking forward to a big storm."
According to figures supplied by the University of Minnesota Tourism Center, a 2005 study found there were $199 million in direct snowmobiling expenditures in the state, resulting in $15 million in tax revenues, and about 5,000 jobs in snowmobile manufacturing and retailing. Data on the effect of the mild winter is not available yet, but it's probably not good.
On the other hand, there might be an upside for snowmobilers and those who are thinking of taking it up.
"Now's the time to buy," Jurrens said. "Prices are getting knocked down because the new models are coming out next week."