Holiday snowmobile traffic provides a boost for Crawford County businesses
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Bitter cold temperatures over the holiday weekend did not deter snowmobilers from utilizing the Crawford County area as a winter playground.
Several groups of snowmobilers zipped and zoomed through the community as people were on holiday vacations and a break from school.
The weather conditions and visitors, who came throughout Michigan and the Midwest, brought in much needed business for area gas stations, restaurants, and hotels and motels.
Pete Kocefas, the owner for Sledheads of Frederic, a business which sells snowmobile parts, gear, and accessories, noticed a number of snowmobiles traveling between Grayling and Frederic and onto points north.
“The thing that saved us is the cold,” Kocefas said. “We need more snow, but we’ve been able to keep what we got.”
Andy Sullivan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Gaylord, said the forecast for the upcoming week remains cold with blasts of lake effect snow blanketing the region.
“We not expecting a huge amount, but it is certainly favorable for the trails and snowmobilers,” Sullivan said.
The AuSable Valley Snowmobile Association grooms over 150 miles of trails in Crawford County. That provides ample trips based in Grayling as well as routes to Lovells, Starvation Lake, the Blue Bear Trails, the Jordan Valley area, and as far as the Mackinac Bridge.
“They work hard and they’re all volunteers, too,” Kocefas said. “If it wasn’t for them I don’t know what we would do.”
Jeremy Bowers, co-owner of Spike’s Keg O’ Nails, was pleased to see groups for snowmobiles trickle in along with regular customers and holiday weekend visitors.
“We get a handful in every day,” Bowers said. “If we can get them here, they want to stop and eat. If we can get weekenders here, whether it be a snowmobile or side-by-side, it helps our business a bunch.”
Ken Pawlanta, the owner of the Frederic Inn, said he would be forced to close for the season if it wasn’t for snowmobilers coming in along with regular patrons.
“It makes or breaks you, at least for a small town like this,” Pawlanta said.
Mark Caskey, of Trenton, was among a large contingent of riders which stopped in Grayling to visit the Paddle Hard Microbrewery.
“We stopped at the brewery to have one and check the new place out,” Caskey said.
Caskey said he found local trail conditions to be favorable.
“They’re nice and smooth,” he said. “They’re a little thin, but that can be expected this time of year.”
Nick Wolford, from Circleville, Ohio, stopped in Grayling for a “Super Spikeburger.”
“I would get it again for sure,” he said.
Wolford said the trails on Sunday were better than some located west of Grayling.
“Today, they’ve been really good, so I’ve been really happy with that,” he said.
As long as riders wore many layers of clothing and had the right equipment, Wolford said chilly temperatures were not a concern.
“It’s not that cold, as long as you’re prepared for it and your hand warmers work,” he said.
Wolford’s girlfriend, Kelsey Smith, experienced her rookie snowmobile trip in the Grayling area over the weekend.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I get to hang out with my boyfriend, which is enjoyable.”
Kocefas said he was tickled to see families out enjoying the outdoors on their snowmobiles.
“That’s nice to see,” Kocefas said.
While many sections of snowmobile trails were closed across the region due to various issues, that was not the case in Crawford County; however, that will change in February near military firing ranges when Camp Grayling hosts large scale exercises to prepare troops for Arctic warfare.