Local snowmobilers couldn’t have asked for a better start to the winter.
The biggest snowstorm in two winters hit the region Dec. 14-15, and snowmobilers didn’t miss out on the opportunity to hit trails that were all but unridden during a relatively snowless winter of 2012-13.
Unfortunately the weeklong period of mid-December has been the highlight of what is shaping up to be the third lost winter in a row for area snowmobilers.
“We had one outstanding weekend. That’s it,” said Bob “Hammer” Grant, president of South Warren Snowmobile Club.
All of the local snowmobile clubs’ trails have been closed for weeks because of a lack of snow and warm temperatures earlier this month that brought plenty of ice.
And while that means one less recreational opportunity for local residents, it means a hit in the pocketbooks for local restaurateurs who depend on local and out-of-town riders getting out on the trails.
“This is hurting a lot of businesses,” Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino said.
Grant said the South Warren club’s trails, stretching nearly 100 miles through Lake Luzerne, Lake George and Queensbury, were open for two weeks in December.
Warm temperatures melted the snow that fell in December, and rain and ice fouled trails.
The snow that has been falling recently has been light and fluffy because of the extreme cold, and that snow does not pack well or make for a good base of snow.
“We need at least 8 to 10 inches of wet snow,” Grant said.
Merlino said a few good weeks at the end of the season would help, but snow is needed soon to provide a base for late winter riding.
“If we don’t get a foot or foot and a half soon, we’ll probably lose most of February,” Merlino said.
Local snowmobilers can take to the area’s frozen lakes and ponds to ride, but that type of riding typically doesn’t attract sledders from afar. They generally want trails to ride in the hills and mountains.
Many restaurants and bars in the region cater to snowmobilers, with sledders riding to and from on trail systems that pass eateries in Lake Luzerne, Lake George, Chester and Pottersville.
Mike Russell, whose family runs Ciro’s Restaurant in Lake Luzerne, said the Route 9N eatery is typically closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the winter, but this winter it has also closed Thursdays because of the lack of snowmobile traffic.
“I’ve had one good weekend. It’s been terrible,” Russell said. “Everybody’s going north to Canada or Tug Hill.”
At Black Bear Restaurant & Bar in Pottersville, near the North Warren trail system, waitress Anna Harrison talked Friday to local customers who were trailering their snowmobiles to Canada this weekend because there was no local snow on which to ride.
She said business has been down significantly this winter because of the lack of snow.
“Hopefully we can get a little snow this weekend and get people riding again,” Harrison said.
Local sledders don’t have to go all the way to Canada to find snow. There is plenty of lake effect snow in Herkimer and Hamilton counties, two or so hours northwest of the Glens Falls area. The Old Forge area was reporting trails open with “fair” conditions Friday.
And Grant said it’s not too late to salvage part of the season if there is a decent storm or two over the next couple of weeks. February break is a big vacation week, and snowmobilers will come if there is snow on which to ride.