2017-02-09 / Outdoors

Warm, cold, rain, snow as winter changes mind

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

THE UPS and downs of this winter haven’t prevented kids from exploring the National Lakeshore on snowshoes. THE UPS and downs of this winter haven’t prevented kids from exploring the National Lakeshore on snowshoes. The rollercoaster winter of 2016-17 continued this week with vacillating temperatures bringing precipitation in liquid and solid forms — depending on location.

And more ups and downs are in the forecast.

Users of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail continue to be disappointed as there’s little to no snow on which to ski or snowshoe.

“I don’t even think it is safe for walking at this point because of the ice,” said Kerry Kelly, president of the Friends of Sleeping Bear, following an ice storm Wednesday night. “We’d have to get at least four or five inches (of snow) to use our groomer there.”

Lack of consistent snow and up and down temperatures this year have put a halt to most activities on the Heritage Trail, which has been bypassed by lake effect snow falling inland.

It’s a little different story at Leelanau Conservancy’s Palmer Woods Forest Reserve, where a cross-country skiing outing is slated Sunday.

“There’s a four-inch base there. The plan is to ski, but it could end up being a hike if there’s not enough snow,” Conservancy communications director Carolyn Faught said.

The same is true for a snowshoe hike at the DeYoung Farm Saturday.

For downhill skiiers in the county, though, The Homestead near Glen Arbor is offering nearly three feet of base.

Although lake effect snow also historically eluded the resort due to its proximity to Lake Michigan, cooler temperatures have allow the resort to make snow.

“It was great snowmaking conditions last week and we were making snow like mad,” said Jamie Jewell, the Homestead’s director of sales and marketing. “We’ve got about a 35-inch base.”

From Jan. 28 through Sunday, highs in the 20s and teens made for great snowmaking, helping the resort recoup its snow stockpile.

Overall, the winter season as been good at the resort, Jewell said, as snow arrived for the holidays.

There was ample snow for the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, too. But immediately following, there was a two-week stretch in which highs of 32 or more were recorded. Included was a four-day stretch when the lows stayed above 32.

But rather than depend upon the weather, Jewell said the resort scheduled other activities such as Sunday’s Super Soup fundraiser for Buckets of Rain and musical concerts.

The County Road Commission has been up to the challenge of a rollercoaster winter.

“The icy conditions are a little more challenging to deal with,” said Dan Wagner, managing director of the commission. “But the warmer temperatures have knocked down some of the snowbanks and helped improve visibility at intersections.”

The vacillating weather is about on target with the winter outlook released in October by the National Weather Service (NWS).

“We called for close to average snow with mixed precipitation,” NWS meteorologist Aaron Maxwell said.

The usual weather has also proved good for the County Road Commission.

In the past week, about six more inches of snow was recorded at the NWS weather station in Maple City, bringing the season total to 96.6 inches.

“Normal for you by this time is 105 inches,” Maxwell said.

A clipper system is due to arrive Friday bringing an 80 percent chance of snowshowers. But less than an inch of the white stuff is expected.

Saturday, high temperatures are again expected to creep near 40.

Even so, things are looking good for the President’s Day weekend, Feb. 18-20 at the Homestead.

The resort, which usually is open for just weekends, will have its slopes ready for skiing one additional day on

Monday, Feb. 20.

With any luck — and a continued supply of snow — the Homestead will continue to have its slopes open through mid-March.

“By that time, people started thinking about spring and warmer weather,” Jewell said.

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