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Even with a snowy forecast, businesses who need it suffer

CASS COUNTY, Mich. - Although snow is in the forecast, the season has been pretty mild, especially compared to last year’s winter season. The change in weather has several businesses having to compensate.

Although it snowed Wednesday night and we are expecting more than 3 inches in Cass County Thursday night, it’s not enough. So Swiss Valley Ski and Snowboard Area have to rely on snowmaking machines to work overtime to compensate.

“How many people come through this season? Oh, I would say probably half of what we’re used to,” Jamie Stafne, the Swiss Valley Ski and Snowboard Area manager said.

A mild winter season is hard for a business that runs on snow.

“We adapt. We do what we have to,” she said. “Basically, the theme this winter has been if the weather and the humidity are right, to turn the snow guns on, turn them on. So today they’re going to do that, and we’ll keep them on through Saturday.”

They have to make their own snow even though there are at least 3 more inches expected to fall.

“We are setting up snowmaking here at Swiss Walley,” Tommy Smith Jr., the Snowmaker at Swiss Valley said.

“The reason we have to make snow is that let’s say we get 10 inches of natural snow, that grooms to one inch of base when we actually make the snow, say that we make 10 inches, we get ten inches of base,” Stafne said.

It’s actually a common practice among ski areas to make their own snow. But in years where there is less natural snow, they have to rely on making it themselves

“When we make that snow, the average cost per inch is between $4,000 to $6,000,” she said.

That’s for energy, staffing and fuel costs.

“Our snowmaking crew has to stay on top of it. It takes more people, more energy so it’s been somewhat of an expensive year,” she said.

And Smith Jr, tells ABC57  years like this do make it harder to do his job.

“But we’re taking advantage of every cold temperature we get,” he said.

“It’s been worth it like I’ve said we’ve been open almost 50 days this season and we’re still looking at plenty of winter left,” Stafne said.

Another business, just 30 minutes away is also struggling to keep open.

“Right now I  don’t know if we’ll be able to open it this year at all,” Jason Bentzer, the treasurer at Edwardsburg Snowmobile Club said.

On the Edwardsburg Snowmobile Club’s Facebook is a barrage of satirical posts highlighting that even though you see snow, it’s not enough.

The 98-mile snowmobile trail is still closed and has been closed this whole winter season. Last year they were open 15 to 20 days.

They need 4 plus inches of snow to open because it tears up the ground underneath it.

Bentzer says it’s detrimental to them.

“Everything we do is 100% volunteers so as far as putting the trail in, maintaining the trail, grooming the trail. It’s all done by volunteers and club members,” he said. “Basically, if we have non-snowy years or non-usage years, our membership dwindles down and people lose interest. So that does hurt us.”

Bentzer also tells ABC57 that with the loss of visitors, it also means they lose some funding to keep up the trail.

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