2011 and Earlier / Outdoors

Winter's Been A Bust

“The only way we can for sure make it snow is if we all put our snowblowers away and take the plows off our trucks.”

So says Scot Schweikart of Maple City in summarizing the feelings of winter-loving souls in Leelanau County. Schweikart is a die-hard snowmobiler.
A CEDAR-AREA couple takes advantage of good snow conditions on Monday to cross-country ski on SugarLoaf, the Old Course, a golf course adjacent to Sugar Loaf Ressort.A CEDAR-AREA couple takes advantage of good snow conditions on Monday to cross-country ski on SugarLoaf, the Old Course, a golf course adjacent to Sugar Loaf Ressort.
“If it snows good the night before, I find a way to get out and ride the next day,” he said. “If I don’t it may melt the day after that the way things are going.”

The winter of 2011-12 is pretty much a bust. As of yesterday morning 43 inches of snow have been recorded at the county Road Commission’s Suttons Bay garage. At this same point in January, 2011, 84.5 inches had been recorded.

“On average I ride 2,000 miles each winter. So far this winter, I think I’ve ridden maybe 200,” Schweikart said. “We have a cabin in the U.P. by Paradise. There has not been a lot of snow up there, either.”

Leelanau has been largely devoid of snow and cold temperatures so far this winter, with the trend expected to continue for at least another week. So far, the weather has not forced any cancellations of wintertime events in Leelanau County — but organizers may have some difficult decisions ahead.

Average daily temperatures have been nearly 4 degrees below normal, as recorded at the Maple City. December and January snowfall came in at 44 inches — about normal for one month.

The Northport Winter Carnival is set for Feb. 25. It requires snow and ice for sled races and broom ball, two of the more popular competitions.

“We are definitely due for some snow. I just hope it doesn’t come in May,” said Lisa Drummon, president of the Northport-Omena Chamber of Commerce. She said snow helps the event, but may not be essential. After all, there will also be chili to taste.

“Well, it’s Michigan,” said Drummond. “We could have four feet by the evening. I’m not too concerned, I think we’ll be fine.”

The seminal gathering for the Empire Winterfest, held the third weekend in February, is the polar bear plunge through a hole in the ice of South Bar Lake. Phil Deering, who owns and operates Deering’s Market in Empire, has been taking part in the dip since its inception. “This year, with how goofy the weather has been, we’ll probably just wade on in at South Bar,” he said.

Deering said he has noticed fewer cross country skiers in the village. “We get skiers here because of all the trails around here,” he said. “Right now, in the village, there is no snow. I don’t know what it’s like out in the fields and woods.”

Also in jeopardy is the annual perch contest in Glen Arbor, although cold nights have helped to ice over little Glen. Big Glen, however, remains open. And as in Northport, the Glen Arbor chili contest can be pulled off through any weather.

Will our busted winter return to normal? Probably not, according to Scott Dickinson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Gaylord. While more precipitation is expected, temperatures could go either way, he said.

“Now that could be snow or rain,” Dickinson said. “At Houghton Lake this is the third warmest winter they’ve had. Escabana is saying its the fifth warmest.”

Jamie Jewell, vice president of sales and marketing for The Homestead, America’s Freshwater Resort near Glen Arbor, said ski hills remain open with snow, but the ground is bare just about everywhere else.

“It is unusual the lack of snow we are seeing this winter,” Jewell said. Still, the resort is attracting people staying for long weekends to attend more “inside” activities.

“This weekend with the Taste the Passion wine event, we are definitely going to have more people,” she said. “By offering different special events, like cooking classes and wine tours, we are seeing more people in the winter.”

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