The lack of snow is hurting Minnesota businesses that cater to winter recreation, especially in the snowmobile and ski sectors, meaning a potential loss in millions of dollars in revenue in communities across the state. According to the state's tourism agency, Explore Minnesota, winter travel accounts for about a quarter of all tourist travel in the state.
Suzanne Thomas, operations director at Buena Vista Ski Area north of Bemidji, said downhill ski slopes there are in good shape, thanks to snow-making efforts. But with little snow anywhere else, winter recreation isn't on people's minds.
"Most of the people around the area are not seeing the snow in their yards, and that, psychologically, has a huge impact. I know my dad always used to say, 'We hope it snows where they are, because we have it here.' It's on their mind more if they do see the snow," she said.
John Tibstra, who sells and services cross country skis at his shop in Bemidji, said business this winter is about half of what it is in a typical year. He's sure snow will eventually come, but when there's none on the ground, people don't think about buying skis.
"The actual instant gratification of being able to take them, actually take them out and ski on them, rather than buying them and waiting -- without the snow there's not that drive to get them right now," he said.
The ground is brown in most areas of the state. But there's a silver lining in parts of Minnesota's Arrowhead region in the northeast, where snow cover ranges from 2 to 8 inches deep.