A lack of snow in Wisconsin is taking a hit on both businesses and citizens.
Driving around Chippewa Falls, Menomonie, Bloomer, Colfax, Eau Claire and many other cities in western Wisconsin, you’d be hard-pressed to understand why Wisconsin has such a notorious reputation for horrible winter seasons. You’ll see the occasional ice patch, maybe a few stubborn patches of snow alongside seldom-used roads. For the average Wisconsinite, this might be a pleasant change, but for many it is far from welcome.
Ralph Schneider, a member of the Dunn County Fish and Game Club Board of Directors, said the lack of snow has affected not just the club’s events and activities, but also a home activity he isn’t used to having to cut out of his life.
“I put chains on my four-wheeler and it hasn’t left the shed,” Schneider said. “When my grandkids and neighbor kids are out, I take my four-wheeler and I usually like to pull them in a sled, but now there isn’t any snow to pull them on.”
Snowmobiling and skiing in Wisconsin are among the most popular winter activities in the state. However, outdoor recreation enthusiasts haven’t been able to partake recently, as most trails are closed indefinitely in Dunn County and Chippewa County until much heavier snow accumulation occurs. This is an inconvenience for snowmobilers and skiers, but it’s an even bigger problem for some area businesses.
Brandy Slowiak, president of Chippewa County Sno-Cruisers Snowmobiling Club, said the weather has cut into her club’s activity, and she said she has noticed businesses suffering as well due to the dry Wisconsin winter.
“It has definitely impacted a lot of businesses that rely on ATVs and snowmobiles to keep their businesses running during the winter,” Slowiak said. “As far as people who go riding themselves, it has been much more difficult to get out on the trails and people have to travel farther to go out snowmobiling. It has a drastic effect on everyone. It’s taking a toll.”
Businesses such as Spring Street Sports in Chippewa Falls and Dunham’s Sports in Menomonie rely on customers coming in to buy or rent outdoor gear, snowboards and other outdoor recreational equipment in order to thrive during the winter months. With this customer base sparse due to the lack of snow, these businesses and the local economies they call home are suffering.
Another often overlooked aspect of a milder winter is what it does to ice fishing: make it harder to do and more dangerous. There is likely to be thinner ice on public bodies of water; meanwhile there is no snow provide traction on icy roads and waterways.
Schneider said he has had friends who have been injured during low-snow conditions such as these while ice fishing.
“With no snow the lakes are so treacherous,” Schneider said. “You don’t even want to go out there. A friend of mine fell down a few years ago and he still can’t smell or taste anything because he banged his head so badly. It makes doing everything on the lake so dangerous when there is nothing but ice.”
Schneider said he believes this drought is getting worse and worse every year, and that it is negatively affecting the environment.
“Every year it seems that the snow is coming later and later,” Schneider said. “The rain we got back in December, had that been snow that would’ve been of some value. But now the sun is slowly evaporating any snow we get, so when spring comes around there won’t be anything for the ground whatsoever.”
Slowiak agreed that this year is a particularly bad one for snow accumulation in western Wisconsin.
“This has been the worst it’s been in the last couple of years,” Slowiak said. “I know there was another year, five or six years ago, that was pretty bad as well, but this is definitely one of the latest seasons that I’ve seen. We are just hoping for snow.”
“This is definitely one of the latest seasons that I’ve seen. We are just hoping for snow.” Brandy Slowiak, president of the Chippewa County Sno-Cruisers