Businesses feeling the chilling effect of a mild winter
Lack of snowfall affecting winter fun

By CHRIS BUCHER - Freeman Staff

Jan 28, 2017

Artificial snow produced at Ausblick Ski Area, W260-N6395 Mary Hill Road in Sussex, earlier this year provided a base to withstand the warmer temperatures we have experienced recently.
Submitted photo

WAUKESHA — Winter is typically a time for outdoor enthusiasts to get out of the house, bundle up and take part in some of the many fun activities the area has to offer.

However, the mild temperatures and lack of snowfall this winter have resulted in improvising for area businesses, parks and event organizers.

“It’s fair to say — at least in my memory — this is probably the least excuse of a winter that I recall,” Retzer Nature Center Supervisor and Lead Teaching Naturalist Larry Kascht said. “The snow conditions before and during the holidays were very nice, but the duration of the thaw and the non-snowy conditions seems to me like the most we’ve experienced. In past winters, it’s on again, off again. And we’re realizing that winter is probably not going to be what it once was when I was a kid, but this one seems more extreme than ones in recent memory.”

It’s Kascht’s 28th year working at Retzer, and he said while the winter season typically attracts plenty of visitors to the park to take part in snowshoing, the early thaw and frozen ground have resulted in the park transforming its plans to focus around classes and nature hikes without the equipment.

“We look for 2 inches of new snow for snowshoes to work, and it’s been weeks since we have had those kinds of conditions,” Kascht said. “The snow melts and refreezes and then you have ice everywhere.”

Despite the absence of snowshoing conditions, Kascht said attendance at Retzer’s programs has been above average.
 

Snowmobiling

The absence of a typical Wisconsin winter led to the Suburban Sno-Hawks rescheduling their 47th annual Snowmobile Race, which was initially slated for Sunday, to Feb. 26. The competitor’s course will also shrink to ovals because of the conditions on the course.

“This is the first year it will be a different,” Sno-Hawks Secretary Debbie Lesch said. “Due to the developments, we’re only able to do oval tracks.”

Lesch said due to the surprising amount of rain and warm weather, the course is filled with mud and ice instead of the snow needed to run a longer and worthwhile course.
 

Ski hills

The lackluster winter weather can be felt on the slopes, as well, as Ausblick Ski Area General Manager Dennis Evinrude said. But he said the conditions on the members-only ski hill, at W260-N6395 Mary Hill Road in Sussex, still outweigh those from the 2015-2016 winter because of planning.

“It’s better than last season but not as good as some others,” Evinrude said about business. “The thing you want to understand about skiers, especially in Wisconsin and the Midwest, is that if you don’t make snow, you’re not in business. Everybody has a serious financial commitment to snow making; that’s how we get through these periods.”

Evinrude said the business worked to produce massive amounts of snow artificially, and it’s worked out for the best thus far.

“(Artificial snow) is relatively ineffective above 23 degrees,” Evinrude said. “But we made a lot of snow below 23 degrees, so that gives us a thick base that will survive warm periods and rain.”

Email: cbucher@conleynet.com