There have been three days this month where the temperature hit 50 degrees or more, but that’s not stopping winter sports enthusiasts from getting out and having fun.
But owners and employees of businesses that rely on cold and snow to keep their seasonal customers happy have their fingers crossed.
Josh Stump, who plows for Blooming Valley Landscape & Supply, 24213 State Highway 77, wouldn’t mind more snow for a few months.
The company serves approximately 100 commercial and residential customers from Conneaut Lake to Cambridge Springs.
“It’s been a bit of a mild winter for us when it comes to customer service,” Stump said. “On our side, it’s not how we want it, but some people like a lighter winter.”
He said the area hasn’t had as severe a winter as it has in recent years and the company has 12 employees who clear snow. The company also has five salt trucks with plows; four regular snow plow trucks and two tractors used for sidewalk snow removal that have salt spreaders. They like to keep this equipment running.
He said all the employees worked when there were winter storms.
“It’s nice to have the guys on the road and save them a few hours,” Stump said. “A lot of guys have families they have to take care of.”
Stump said he would “definitely like some stable snow” over the next few weeks.
“We’re still holding our own,” Stump said. “That’s what helps our guys,” Stump said.
WJET-TV meteorologist Tom Atkins doesn’t think it will snow regularly, at least not for long periods of time.
“We’re in the coldest part (of winter) right now,” Atkins said Thursday.
He thinks colder temperatures (low 20s and 30s) will continue through the first 10 days and possibly two weeks of February.
“We’ll see some shots of cold air and snow,” Atkins said. “The problem is that it will be between warm-ups.”
Atkins said there was a cold start to winter (over Christmas), but the temperature then warmed up. He said this cycle could continue.
So if you own a skiing, tubing, or snowboarding business, thank heaven for snowmaking machines.
At AvalancheXpress, 15630 Middle Road, Meadville, they were able to open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. AvalancheXpress is transforming Whispering Pines Golf Course into what is billed as the longest and steepest snowtubing park in northwest Pennsylvania.
But owner Bill Kingzett said it’s been a tough year so far.
They started the season early, making snow in November. Although a heat wave followed, AvalancheXpress managed to produce enough snow to keep customers coming back.
“We had our first start to the season in November. Normally we don’t make snow in November,” Kingzett said. “But then – it was 50 degrees and it was raining. So we had to start the process all over again.”
Last week’s snow helped.
“We were lucky; we were proactive and made some snow last weekend,” Kingzett said.
He said tube customers aren’t too worried, “as long as we have the white stuff.”
“They like the hill to be fast, and we have some control over that,” Kingzett said.
But without artificial snow, AvalancheXpress would not be open for business.
“It’s our 20th season. We’ve gotten a little smarter,” Kingzett said. “We’ve learned not to get excited about the weather.”
Kingzett said communities in southern Crawford County look forward to coming to AvalancheXpress, where they can have fun on the six 900-foot tracks. Tubers don’t have to go up hill; there is an elevator that pulls them up the tube. There are igloos for rent for parents or those who want to relax and watch from the bottom of the hill in a comfortable setting or sit by the fire pit and roast s’mores. You must pre-book tubing passes online at avalanchexpresstubing.com.
A little further north, Mount Pleasant, 14510 Mount Pleasant Road, Edinboro, is open for skiing, tubing and snowboarding.
“Apart from the lack of snow, everything is fine,” said general manager Andrew Halmi. “We rely on almost 100% artificial snow.”
Last week’s snow also helped this business.
“It was awesome,” Halmi said. “People were happy to ski on real snow.
Earlier in the week, Halmi said one trail was open, but they needed to make more snow to open the other nine trails. Mount Pleasant has a chairlift, a J-bar chairlift and a special tubing ski lift. This summer, they installed a magic treadmill.
“One of our biggest challenges is that it has to be 28 degrees or less to make snow,” Halmi said. “We haven’t had any real snowmaking weather.”
Nonetheless, Halm said, “People are coming out.”
Especially the children. More than 1,200 young people signed up for the after-school ski initiation program.
“We teach over 1,200 kids to ski every week,” Halmi said.
So the demand is there.
“We need to get more snow or make a little more snow so people can ski on extra runs,” Halmi said.
Halmi monitors the weather. The National Weather Service in Cleveland says snow will likely change to rain with a high in the 30s on Sunday and a 50% chance of snow Sunday night. Monday looks like cloudy skies and a 40% chance of morning snow with a high in the 20s. Penn State’s AccuWeather shows temperatures in the 30s and 40s in late January and in the 30s and 20s in early February, May -be good at making snow.
Still, Kingzett said, the point isn’t to have to make snow, but sometimes Mother Nature gets in the way.
“Mother Nature was a tough opponent. No one beats Mother Nature,” Kingzett said. “You just work with her sometimes.”
And while AvalancheXpress and Mount Pleasant can make their own snow, it’s still only a substitute for real snow.
“Natural snow is the best tool we could ask for,” Kingzett said.
Jason Myers no doubt agrees. Myers, which has locations in Meadville and Saegertown, has been in the snow removal business for three years. It serves 54 customers, both commercial and residential, from Cochranton to Cambridge Springs.
He’s had enough business to take care of, but he needs a 40-hour workweek.
“I go day to day and hope for the best,” Myers said.
Myers said he would like to add a few more employees, but there just hasn’t been enough snow to do so.
“Even though I would like to expand, I need the weather to keep another employee,” he says.
But he was busy with the recent snowfall and hoped for more.
“If it snowed 10 more times, it would be a wonderful winter for me,” Myers said.
It is uncertain whether Myers will get his wish. Atkins doesn’t know if the region will continue the cycle through March, but he’s not looking for sustained snowfall, especially through March.
“I’m not looking for lake effect snow,” Atkins said. “We will have snow, but I don’t think it will last.”