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Though temperatures have been well below normal this spring, there's been enough melting happening to put an end to the snowmobile season. Dave Boutang with South East Sno-Riders says the sledding season officially came to a close last week. Boutang says trail conditions were among the best ever and he can't recall another year where the season lasted into April.
"Trail conditions were great," notes Boutang. "We were able to groom our entire trail system twelve times this year, we've never done that before."
Boutang says sledders were eager to hit the powder right after the mid-fall ice storm. He says the South East club was one of the few clubs in the region that was able to open its entire trail system immediately following that storm. However, he says that storm, combined with wildfires in 2012 created a lot of damage to the trail system. And he says cleanup is not yet complete. Boutang explains they opened the trails following the storm in order to get the groomer through. But he says right now there's a lot of brush hanging over top of the trails that still needs to be cleared out. "That probably won't be completed until next season."
According to Boutang, the 2012-13 season should be a good one financially. He says finances are based on grooming, and as mentioned earlier, groomers hit the trails a dozen times. But he notes the cleanup will cost them a bundle, though he gives credit to local businesses for helping out. All in all, Boutang says they likely won't have a surplus this year. "We will be a little short I would think as far as finances go," he says. "We went a little over budget this year because everything was unexpected. You couldn't plan for the ice storm. You couldn't plan for a winter like we had. All in all I think we're in fairly good shape." Boutang says they should recover some of their costs at a fundraising dinner this week in La Broquerie.
Meanwhile, local businesses are reaping the rewards from the longer sledding season. Albert Bourrier owns Vintage Corner Store in Woodridge. The business includes a lodge and corner store complete with fuel. "There's no comparison, it was definitely busy, very busy this year," notes Bourrier when comparing this year's numbers to last year.
Bourrier says on a typical Saturday this winter they would see between 100-150 sleds stopping for fuel. Bourrier says on the snowmobile side of business, they took in 50% more revenue. He admits on the ice fishing side of business they were more profitable last winter when there was less snow, making it easier to access the lake. He says when you factor in both sides of business, they were probably up 10% this winter.
"The mood was so positive it's the most compliments that we ever had on the trails," recalls Bourrier. "Guys were coming in and they were saying the trails were just awesome."
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