WUOMFM

Warm weather putting winter tourism at risk in Michigan

Feb 21, 2017

Planning your next winter excursion in Michigan could get harder this year. 

Unusually warm temperatures throughout the state, including record highs in certain areas over the weekend, have led tourism experts and representatives to question whether enough snow will stay on the ground to support outdoor activities. 

Bill Manson is the executive director of the Michigan Snowmobile Association, a large organization of registered riders throughout the state. He says the sport, one that relies heavily on natural snowfall, is a strong force in Michigan tourism and the state economy. 

"Right now we're just under a $1 billion industry to the state of Michigan. So when snowmobilers spend their money, it economically impacts."

Manson worries that poor snowmobile conditions from continued warm weather will hurt many communities and small businesses that rely on winter tourism to stay afloat. 

"Without the snow, those people are gonna be waiting for the summer tourism, and that's a long stretch," he said. "A lot of them won't be able to make it."

Other snow sports are a bit less vulnerable to the warmer temps. Mickey MacWilliams, executive director of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association, says most ski mountains in Michigan can make their own snow. But she says they could still use a heavy snowfall before the end of the season. 

"Up to this point our ski areas have been able to hold on, which is a good thing, through President's [Day] weekend, that was important," she said. "If this [heat] continues, it will certainly impact the industry."

The winter season sees almost one-third of the $17 billion tourism revenue in Michigan every year.