MADISON, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) — Nick Gaeu manages Lange Equipment in Rothschild, Wisconsin.
He says a glut of early-season snow has gotten people excited to get out and ride their snowmobiles.
“Guys are excited, it's been years since we've had this much snow this early in the season,” Gaeu said.
Leading up to Christmas, he said that meant good business.
“What we see with sled sales are strong, and normally we don't see this kind of momentum until Mid-January into February,” Gaeu said.
Since Spectrum News spoke with Gaeu, things have warmed up, some trails have even closed.
“We need some cold weather, yup we have a lot of snow and not a lot of cold this year,” said Dave Newman, president of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs.
Newman said there is still plenty of winter left. Which is good because it helps drive economies across the state.
“Really all over the state it can be a huge impact a lot of businesses, whenever the trails are open gas stations get busy, motels, restaurants, snowmobilers spend a lot of money when they're out there riding,” Newman said.
The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that outdoor recreation generates nearly $18 billion year-round in Wisconsin. Plus, more than $5 billion in wages.
Part of that is because of how popular winter sports are for people who live here. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimates that about 46 percent of Wisconsinites participate in winter outdoor recreation activities.
Snowmobiling accounts for a huge chunk of that with more than 18 percent of people participating in the state.
Then there are winter events that bring people in from out of state.
The one-week American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race in northern Wisconsin brings about 30,000 people a year to the town of Hayward. Climate Wisconsin estimates that the event brings in $4 million over the course of a weekend.
A national report commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Protect Our Winters shows that winter tourism in Wisconsin adds $647.7 million to the economy. The report also shows that winter sports generate $373 million in labor income.
While winter sports help Lange's near Wausau, it also provides Gaeu and so many other people a chance for fun through Wisconsin's cold months.
“I've been itching to go for the last three weeks already,” Gaeu said.