By SUSAN TOBIAS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Winter in the North Country has been like a roller-coaster ride since the beginning of December.
Snow measured in feet was followed by rain and warm weather.
Temperatures in the 50s quickly dissolved the snow that fell earlier this week.
Even with such inconsistencies, snowmobile owners and riders are much happier with the amount of snowfall in the North Country so far this winter compared to last season. Optimism rides high that the remaining cold months will still yield snow-packed trails and good rides.
‘HIGHWAY IN WOODS’
“We were excited about riding until this warm-up,” said Penny Mooney Dumas of West Chazy in January. “I was on vacation after the first snowstorm, and we went riding a lot. The trails were beautiful.”
Dumas and her husband, Andrew “Opie” Dumas, are members of the Northern Tier Sno-Runners Club, just one of several such organizations in northern New York.
Club members ride connecting trails from West Chazy to Malone and in between.
“We have a great club, and everyone says our trails are well maintained,” she said. “It’s like a highway in the woods.”
BOOST TO ECONOMY
When individuals or clubs hit the snowy trail, they need gas, food and a warm place to take a break, benefiting small businesses in a recovering economy.
“We can have up to 50 (snowmobile riders) stopping for gas or food on a nice day,” said Mike Deneault, owner of L&M Convenience Store in Mooers.
Even though the Mountain Mart 101 in Altona is on the snowmobile trail, it doesn’t carry gas anymore so the store doesn’t see the number of sledders it used to.
“We still carry spark plugs and other parts,” said Manager Jeanne Bushey, “and we have sleds stopping for food, but not like when we had gas, too.”
Wayne Roberts, manager of Roberts Sport Center in Malone, said sales of snowmobiles haven’t slowed down despite snowmelt.
“The sled season is still good out of the local area. The mountains and up in Canada have snow and attract sled owners ... No matter what, true snowmobilers will find snow.”
With an average price range from $8,000 to $10,000 for the Skidoo sleds Roberts sells, owners are careful to keep their machines tuned and in good repair, he said.
WATCHING FOR SNOW
Dumas said that while her coworkers think of going south in the winter to warm up, she and her family are just dreaming of another snowstorm.
“Snowmobile riders are excited when it snows but disappointed when it rains,” she said. “These are expensive toys, and it’s no fun when you can’t get out there and play with them.
“Bring on the snow.”