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A green December shortens Michigan's snowmobile season

Three snowmobilers racing on well-traveled road.
Steven Pepple -
Three snowmobilers racing on well traveled road.

Despite snow sweeping across Michigan this month, the lack of snow in December is causing problems for rural economies that rely on snowmobiling tourism.

In northern Michigan, last month was the second warmest December on record, according to the National Weather Service. Gaylord received 7.9 inches of snow accumulation, which is the lowest amount of snow accumulation recorded in the county since 1951.

Christine Jourdain, executive director for the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, said the warm weather and lackluster snowfall was causing a trickle-down effect on businesses. She said no snow means the trails are quiet, and small businesses notice.

"If the snowmobilers aren't going up north, the hotels are not full, so the staff at the hotels aren't working," Jourdain said. "It's not just Michigan that missed out on the snow this winter. It has been across the country."

The lack of snow isn't the only problem for rural businesses, as the number of people purchasing snowmobile licenses is also declining in Michigan. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, from 2019 to 2023, snowmobile license purchases have gone down 10%.

Jourdain said that Michigan's declining population can also be attributed to fewer licenses being bought. To combat Michigan's shrinking population, Governor Gretchen Whitmer launched the Growing Michigan Together Council last year to address Michigan's withering population.

Scott Rechlin is a production assistant and on-host for WCMU
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