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St. Lawrence County snowmobilers, businesses hopeful for strong season

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Increased snowfall across St. Lawrence County has many businesses seeing green as well as white. “This could be the first good season we’ve had in a long time,” Debbie A. Christy, president of the St. Lawrence County Snowmobilers Association, said Friday.

The snowmobile season typically runs from Dec. 15 to April 1 in St. Lawrence County, when trail groomers begin to take down trail signs, Mrs. Christy said.

“In the past, we were waiting until the end of January for snowfall,” Ms. Christy said. “We had a fabulous start of the season, with over 30 inches of snow in some parts of the county in December.”

The county Snowmobilers Association has 2,000 members this year, a significant increase from last year, Ms. Christy said.

It’s no secret snowmobilers have a huge impact on county’s economy, but many business owners are wondering whether they will see the benefit of increased snowfall. Some report that they are already seeing an increase from last year at this time.

Connie M. Daly, front desk manager at the Cranberry Lake Lodge, which boasts a 24-hour gas station and cabins on Cranberry Lake, provides a good stopping point and destination for snowmobilers.

“Last year with the snow, we didn’t do so well,” she said. “This year we had a slow start and then a big snow.”

At least half of the lodge’s business during winter is snowmobilers traveling from areas such as Boonville and Tug Hill to Lake Placid and Old Forge.

“Many of them take the big loop around,” she said. “A lot of them make reservations and park their trailers up here. Some of them ride between 100 and 200 miles a day. We’ve got everything here. Once the lake freezes over, we get a lot of people who like to cross that way. The lake has a circumference of about 55 miles.”

Without snowmobilers, Ms. Daly said, the business would “take a real hit.”

This month, the lodge is three-quarters of the way booked, with February only having one or two vacancies left, Ms. Daly said.

Tammie L. Mace, owner of Langbrook Club House, Brier Hill, said a snowmobile trail runs right by her restaurant.

“We’ve seen more snow there then in the last three years,” Ms. Mace said.

Ms. Mace estimates that 75 percent of snowmobilers who stop or pass through on their way to Jefferson County purchase food and a beverages along the way. She also says about 40 percent of her overall business is snowmobilers.

“Our business would definitely hurt without them,” she said.

Ms. Mace is also the president of the Dairy Land Snowmobile Club, Brier Hill.

“We’re doing a big fundraiser Feb. 16 to raise money for the club, which works to maintain the trails,” she said.

She said she would ideally like to have snow until the end of March.

“There’s not a lot for north country people to do in the winter time,” she said. “Snowmobiling is great for people of all ages. It’s good for the snow and the body.”

Janet P. Sylvester, owner of the Thirsty Moose Pub & Grub, 9754 Route 3, Childwold, says that she expects another few good weeks of snowmobilers packing into her restaurant and lodge.

“We’re a year-round business,” she said. “We hope for 12 weeks of snowmobiling and snow before the mud season.”

Most of the snowmobilers that visit the Thirsty Moose as destination, rather than a stopping point to “meet up with friends get warm and get gas and get a cabin,” Ms. Sylvester said.

“Our trails are excellent,” she said. “They improved them over the last few years. They got them off the highway and into the backwoods. Groomers keep them very well groomed.”

Many of the 530 trails throughout the county have been remapped away from highways to private land in order to make trails more enjoyable and safer for snowmobilers, Ms. Christy said.

About 580 landowners offer use of their property to snowmobilers through agreements with the county Snowmobile Association, Ms. Christy said.

“Those trail changes and the cooperation with the landowners substantially contributes to the local, state and county economies,” she said. “Their generosity is the foundation of our St. Lawrence County trail system.”

A representative of the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vt., could not give exact data for snowfall in St. Lawrence County, but did report 29.5 inches of snowfall in Malone last year. This season, snowfall has so far reached 41.5 inches.

However, that is still below average, Meteorologist Peter C. Banacos said.

“Usually they have 46 inches, so it is still below normal,” he said. “Snowfall mainly depends on storm tracks. Tracks out of the east typically bring more snow.”

Based on extrapolated data, Mr. Banacos predicts that the amount of snowfall will be average by the end of the season.

In the meantime, however, Ms. Christy said she is crossing her fingers for more snowy weather.

“We haven’t heard of any major forecasts, but the farmer’s almanac says it will be a good winter,” Ms. Christy said. “Mother nature is the only one that knows. We are at her mercy.”

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