Rough ride for snowmobilers this winter

Tupper trails and rail trial corridor now closed

Bart Crary grooms the C7 corridor. (Provided photo — Reese Fleury)

TUPPER LAKE — With a warm winter only getting warmer, snowmobilers in southern Franklin County have been forced to shutter their machines.

“I have not ridden once this year,” president of the Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club Reese Fleury said on Friday.

Fleury took over as club president around one year ago, after former president Gary Beaudette stepped down.

According to NOWData from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, climatological data collected from a weather station at Sunmount in Tupper Lake lists new snowfall for December 2023 as 9.3 inches. In January, 29.3 inches of new snowfall were recorded.

The closest available NOWData snowfall data for previous years was in Newcomb, which lists 31.4 inches of new snowfall in December 2022 and 18.8 inches in January 2023.

The Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club’s new Can-Am Defender groomer (Provided photo — Reese Fleury)

While Tupper Lake — and the Tri-Lakes as a whole — has seen snow, NOWData shows 13 days of temperature highs above 40 in December 2023, with 50 degrees topping the list on Dec. 12, 2023. This January was much colder, with the highest temperature recorded reaching 39 degrees on Jan. 26.

“It’s been challenging for sure,” said town of Tupper Lake trail groomer Bart Crary. “I did more grooming this year than riding; I put a total 36 miles on my sled.”

Crary, who said he logged 103 hours on the groomer this year, also grooms for the snowmobile club. Though he said he “absolutely wishes” there had been more snow this year, he said he saw lots of traffic in Tupper Lake.

“I do see the snowmobile traffic, and I know that people have the mindset right now that if the trail is open, they’re going to do whatever it takes to get on it,” he said.

February saw the most freeze-thaw cycles, which wreak havoc on snow. According to NOWData, nine days of the month saw temperatures above 40 degrees, with an unprecedented 60 degree high on Feb. 28. On seven of those nine days, the nighttime lows reached below freezing, with four hitting single digits.

“It started OK once we had the snow,” Fleury said. “Right now it’s not looking so good.”

The club recently purchased a new Can-Am Defender for grooming, with funds from the town of Tupper Lake — which come from grants from Franklin County — and Franklin Snowmobilers Inc.

“We haven’t really been able to use it as much as we’d like,” Fleury said.

The club closed all 5 miles of trails within the village, which they groom and maintain. The Adirondack Rail Trail, which is managed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and has become a haven for snowmobilers, is closed with gates.

“We’re frustrated, local businesses are frustrated,” he said. “The revenue loss is felt.”

Snowmobiling, and the traffic it brings to Tupper Lake, is a big support to the local economy, he explained.

“We’re essentially the crossroads, the hub of the whole area,” he said.

The New York State Snowmobile Association reports that snowmobiling has an economic impact in New York of around $573 million annually, with around $245 million attributed to the Adirondacks. In a 2011 NYSSA survey conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Applied Research, SUNY Potsdam, total statewide snowmobiling spending came in at just over $434 million.

The Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club is run by President Reese Fleury; Jack Moody, vice president; Kelley Fleury, treasurer; Michael Willett, secretary; and Bart Crary, groomer. It is funded by NYSSA dues and reimbursements from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which are based on logged grooming miles and trail maintenance. The club splits those funds with the town of Tupper Lake, which maintains the C7 rail trail corridor in town at a 30-70 ratio, respectively.


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