Snow a boon for winter business in Minnesota

Staff Writer

Isle, Minn. It’s been four years since the state’s snowmobile
trails have been in as good a shape as they are this winter.
Measurable snow covers the entire state, and it’s been a huge boost
to those who depend on the winter season as a primary source of
income.

According to the DNR, the majority of snowmobile trails
throughout the state are in good to excellent condition. That means
resorts, gas stations, and snowmobile dealers are seeing money that
hasn’t existed the past several winters.

Steve Johnson, of Johnson’s Portside on the east end of Lake
Mille Lacs, figures his weekend business is up as much as 40
percent from last winter. Although Mille Lacs is most noted for its
winter ice fishing opportunities, Johnson said local businesses are
seeing the effect snowmobilers have on the local economy.

“A winter like this trickles down to every business in the
community,” he said. “The bars, resorts, and gas stations are all
seeing a bump that otherwise wouldn’t be there if we didn’t have
snow.”

Loren Besser, general manager of the Honda House in St. Cloud,
said that this winter has rejuvenated the state’s core of
snowmobile enthusiasts and done wonders for sales.

“We haven’t had this much snow in four years,” Besser said.
“We’re moving machines now that we’ve been sitting on since last
winter.”

While snowmobile sales have been strong during the last month,
Besser added that his service and parts departments also have been
kept much busier this winter than last.

“We’ve finally had an opportunity to clean up our inventory,” he
said. “Obviously, with more people riding, there are more sleds
being damaged, which means a kick in our service and parts areas as
well.”

While the snow is good news for snowmobile owners, it has caused
a few problems in other areas. Though ice conditions are as thick
as three feet on some lakes, slush underneath the snow has limited
anglers in a few locations.

Bruce Sandbeck, of the Loon’s Nest on Rainy Lake, has started to
see fish houses pulled from the lake due to slush. Although the
main lake isn’t in bad shape, many of the bays, which are popular
fishing areas, have become tough to reach.

“These are the worse conditions I’ve seen in years,” Sandbeck
said. “If you a drill a hole in certain areas it looks like a
gusher.”

In southern Minnesota, near Faribault, a minimum of 20 inches of
snow blankets most lakes; four-wheel drive trucks have become
necessary to fish. It’s cut down on the number of anglers who have
ventured out in recent weeks. According to reports from this area
of southern Minnesota, snowmobiles or trucks with good clearance
now are mandatory.

Denny Fletcher of Fletcher’s Bait in Sauk Centre has started to
see some winterkill on a few of his minnow ponds. Fletcher has
spent quite a bit of time in recent days plowing off ponds that
don’t have aeration systems in place. He does this so light can
continue to penetrate through the ice, and limit the amount of
winterkill.

Although winterkill hasn’t been significant up to this point, it
could be a problem for anglers next spring if the winter extends
well into March.

“We haven’t had to worry about this for several years,” Fletcher
said. “If the snow continues to fly in March, and we see quite a
bit of winterkill, it’s possible some minnows may be tough to find
next spring.”

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