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Snow is here, soon winter tourism will be too

The phone rang on Monday morning. The person calling asks, “Hello, how much snow did you get? Are the trails open?”

My first thoughts were, they must be from a long way away since they were asking how much snow we got, and second, which trails are they asking about … snowmobiling, skiing, snow biking?

It turns out the caller was from southern Wisconsin and they were calling about the snowmobile trails and planning their first trip for the season. Even though there are opportunities closer to them, they really like our area and plan on making a few trips this winter to enjoy the experience.

My reply was that we got a LOT of snow and crews are out clearing trails, freezing in wet spots and starting to get things open. That seems to be the story with most of the winter trails systems right now. It’s been a blessing and a curse to get so much snow right off the bat this season.

In the short term it’s requiring a significant amount of work to get the trails usable. In the long term we’re pretty much set for base this winter and should have excellent conditions come Christmas break when a larger majority of people take their first winter trip to enjoy the recreation we have.

Winter tourism is a staple of our local economy. The trails and events draw people from all over the region and country to experience what is literally in our backyard. What started out as rough-cut routes through the Upper Peninsula wilderness have now become frozen highways and trail-ways for multiple user groups.

With snowmobile trails branching out in every direction, the West End of Marquette County is a hub for snowmobiling and maintained by the Hiawatha and Moose Country snowmobile clubs. Cross country skiing has been part of the local culture since the 1800s. The Al Quaal Recreational Area has been homologated to a collegiate-level venue with annual events hosted by the NMU Cross Country Ski Team. And fairly new on the scene is the extensive network of groomed winter singletrack under the stewardship of RAMBA.

The West End of Marquette County truly is a winter wonderland. As the saying goes, “If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but the same amount of snow.” Take time this winter to find some joy.

Editor’s note: Bob Hendrickson is the executive director of the GINCC. He currently resides in Negaunee with his wife, Laura, and daughter, Sierra. He enjoys mountain biking, skiing, fishing and hunting along with family time.