Experts predict mild winter, local businesses face effects
Northwood University student Mike Tonz does a front board slide down the mountain Jan. 5, 2013, at Hawk Island Snow Park 1601 E. Cavanaugh Rd., in Lansing. Tonz said he was there with Middle Earth Snowboard Series, which hosts snowboard events throughout Michigan. Natalie Kolb/The State News
After a mild start to the season, local winter sports businesses are finding ways to keep snow lovers on the slopes and spending money.
This winter has been significantly milder than previous years, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids. In December 2012, Lansing experienced an average temperature of 33.5 degrees — 5.2 degrees above the normal of 28.3 degrees.
Hawk Island Snow Park, a Lansing tubing and snowboard park, recently reopened Dec. 29, 2012. The park is equipped with three snowmakers to keep the crowds coming despite Michigan’s unreliable weather.
But even with the snowmakers, the park still needs ideal weather to open, Ingham County Parks Director Willis Bennett said.
“We would have loved to open Dec. 1 (2012), but the weather wasn’t great,” Willis said. “Since we have opened, though, we have had awesome turnouts.”
East Lansing’s Modern Skate and Surf, 319 E. Grand River Ave., has experienced lack of business recently because of the cold weather, store manager Eric Schmidt said.
After last winter’s above average weather, the snowboard and other winter gear store prepared by ordering fewer product than usual to cut potential losses. Since the reopening of Hawk Island, though, Schmidt said business has picked up.
“The lack of snow has definitely caused people to be apprehensive about buying gear,” Schmidt said. “But business has picked up since it started to snow and since Hawk Island opened back up.”
National Weather Service meteorologists predict the rest of January will continue with above average temperatures, but come February and March temperatures will return to normal compared to previous years.
That’s good news for snow boarders such as music education sophomore Elan Gleiber. He said frosty havens to hone his skills have been in short supply lately, and he hasn’t had as much time on the slopes.
“Because it has been so warm lately, it has been hard to find a close place to snowboard,” Gleiber said.
Local weather should be dry with temperatures in the middle to upper 30’s through Tuesday, then temperatures in the 40’s with rainfall until early Sunday morning, according weather service meteorologists.