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Published January 02, 2009, 12:00 AM

Area businesses are saying, ‘Let it snow… and snow, and snow’

It may or may not be an all-time record, but the near-30 inches of snowfall that Detroit Lakes received last month is definitely more than lakes area residents have seen in any December for more than a decade.

By: Vicki Gerdes, DL-Online

It may or may not be an all-time record, but the near-30 inches of snowfall that Detroit Lakes received last month is definitely more than lakes area residents have seen in any December for more than a decade.

Marty Hembre, who tracks monthly weather statistics for KDLM Radio, said the station had recorded 29¼ inches of snow between Dec. 1-31. That’s nearly double the total recorded at KDLM in December 2007, when 16¼ inches of precipitation fell.

“I’ve been here 11 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Hembre added.

In fact, there have been very few Decembers since 1996 (the earliest statistics available) that Detroit Lakes has received over 10 inches of snow. In December 2006, for instance, a mere 4 inches of snow fell in Detroit Lakes.

The 2005 December tally was much healthier, at 11½ inches, while in December 2004, a mere 7½ inches fell. The lowest totals of the past decade were seen in 1998-99; a mere 3¼ inches of December snowfall were recorded in each of those years.

Though local residents may not be overjoyed at having to shovel out their driveways so frequently, the impact has been much happier for area snowmobile retailers.

“The overall impact has been very good,” said Charlie Okeson, owner of Okeson Off-Trail Sales. “It’s not necessarily just sled sales, it’s every aspect of our business — parts, labor, service, clothing.”

“It’s been great!” enthused Rich Liebelt, sales manager for Seaberg Power Sports. “Our parts and service department is doing better than we expected…our used sales have been good, and new snowmobiles (sales) have been very good.”

Kris Tovson, president of the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce, said there had been a lot of people stopping in their office looking for snowmobile trail maps.

“They’re not going to come into the area unless there are good snow conditions,” she said.

Liebelt also noted that lower gas prices have encouraged snowmobilers to take longer trips than at this time last year, when prices were soaring above $3 a gallon.

“The gas prices have definitely helped our sales,” he said. Sales of snowplows and snow removal equipment are also up.

But the economy is having an impact; Liebelt noted that more people were “digging up their old stuff out of closets and getting them fixed up” rather than buying new gear.

And even with the uptick in sales, Okeson noted, their business still hasn’t reached 1996-97 levels, when they sold close to 500 snowmobiles (new and used) in a single year.

“We probably peaked out about 10 years ago,” he said. “This year, we might sell 35 or 40 (snowmobiles).”

“But we’ve got good snow out there and the fuel prices are down, so I think we’ll see more people out riding. The groomers are doing a good job on the trails already… when you have this kind of snow prior to the holidays, you’ve got an excellent start.”

Jay Richards, owner of Maplelag Resort, agreed that the snow the area has received so far will provide a “good base” for maintaining trails over the rest of the winter ski season.

Though much of Maplelag’s business is in advance reservations, Richards said they had seen an increase in people making “last minute” ski trip plans.

“It definitely contributes to good business when you have good snow,” he said.

Conditions for the annual Detroit Lakes Ski Invitational, set to take place Jan. 6 at Maplelag, should be the best that the resort has seen in quite a few years.

“We’re very excited about that,” Richards said.

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