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Snow gives area economy a boost

The big snowfall that began on Christmas Day and continued through Dec. 28 was a gift to everyone who enjoys winter sports and the businesses that depend on the people it brings to their gas stations, lodging establishments, restaurants and retail shops.

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Itasca State Park is truly a winter wonderland this year.

Candy Christensen, the Park Rapids Lakes Area CEO and president, said having a lot of snow is definitely a benefit.

“This is good for the community and great for the economy,” she said. “People are going to come to stay at hotels, motels and resorts that stay open for the season. I’m sure they’re pretty excited to see the snow as well. It’s also looking good for the Heartland 200 snowmobile race presented by Core Power Sports coming up Jan. 29-30. We have pretty much narrowed it down that we will be on the trails this year.”

Christensen said area residents who have called the Chamber have reported getting between 14 and 17 inches in the three-day period depending on where they are located.

A boost for the whole lakes area

“I have seen groomers out throughout the area, the Forest Riders and the Nevis Trailblazers,” said Christensen. “Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding at the Headwaters Country Club golf course. There’s definitely going to be a lot more people calling to make reservations for places to stay and ride.

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“It’s really great for our economy, not just in Park Rapids but the whole Heartland Lakes Area – from Akeley to Osage to Menahga to Lake George and up to Itasca State Park. Our whole community benefits. They’re probably going to spend a lot of money on gas for those snowmobiles to get out and hit the trails as much as they can while they’re here. Then, in the evening, maybe going to catch a movie, going out to dinner. If there’s live music around they really enjoy that.”

She said she would compare this year’s snow to mountain trails in some areas as far as snowmobiling goes for how powdery it is.

“If you have an older sled that’s a little bit heavier, this type of snow isn’t as easy to access. However, the trails have been groomed, so getting on the trails, that powdery snow isn’t going to be an issue. And there are plenty of other areas to ride. We’ve got the whole state forest around us and those who want to can definitely get in the fresh powder snow out there.”

Christensen said anglers need to use caution.

“For ice fishing, with a lot of ice being piled on the snow when a lot of the lakes the ice wasn’t as thick, you can get out on the ice with a snowmobile or four-wheeler to bring your fish house out, but I wouldn't recommend vehicles out in this area. It’s quite dangerous.”

Busy weekend for businesses

Businesses located near one or more snowmobile trails fared especially well over the weekend. At the Woodland Store in Lake George, owner Jim Clark said snowmobile traffic has definitely picked up and it’s one of the top years for snow in the seven years he has owned the store.

“We love snow,” he said. “We’re off to a good start. We got more snow in two days than we saw all last winter. Since the snow started, we’ve seen sleds coming through pretty regularly.

“We’re expecting a busy month of January so it’s all good. The trails are in good shape since the groomers have come through. If anybody has a sled, it’s a great time to go out and ride it.

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“We’re right in the middle of all the trails, the Schoolcraft, Paul Bunyan and trails going to Park Rapids. We’ve got great snow and great trails, and the clubs do a great job taking care of them. There’s snowshoeing and skiing over in the state park, lots of things for people to do if they like the snow.”

An employee at the Emmaville store said there were dozens of sleds stopping both Saturday and Sunday to gas up their snowmobiles and get back out on the trails.

The Emmaville store is centrally located, with the Paul Bunyan State Forest to the east, Lake Island and Two inlets to the west, Park Ra[ids to the south and Lake George and Bemidji to the north. Riders were made up of a mix of locals and those coming from St. Cloud and the Metro.

An employee at Clancy’s said there were between 50 and 80 sleds stopping by each day Saturday and Sunday, making it one of the best starts to January in recent years.

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Snowmobilers cruise popular trails near Two Inlets when the snow is abundant, like these in January 2018. Shannon Geisen / Park Rapids Enterprise file photo

Related Topics: SNOWMOBILING
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