BY GLENN PUIT
EAST JORDAN — Mark Zumbaugh remembers when northern Michigan snowfall patterns allowed for snowmobiling during hunting season.
These days, though, that early, thick snow is packed into memories.
"It's a little discouraging," said Zumbaugh, who lives in Boyne City and snowmobiles annually throughout Antrim County and the surrounding region. "Every year you hear it's going to be different than last year. This year, we are supposed to have good snow."
Lovers of the white stuff are in for no immediate relief. Friday and Saturday could bring record-high temperatures. The Traverse City area could hit the mid-50s on Saturday, causing concern for upcoming winter events.
Saturday's Winter Trails Day at Timber Ridge Resort is canceled. The popular East Jordan Sno-Blast 2013 festival in East Jordan will take place this weekend. However, Sno-Mobiler Runs and Drag Races originally planned during the event are rescheduled to Feb. 16.
"There's no snow in the fields," said race coordinator Tim Bingham.
Statistics show snowfall totals this winter are well below average again. The Traverse City area has had about 12.4 inches of snowfall so far, well below the approximately 37 inches typical for this time of year.
That follows a miserable 2011 snowfall total of 63.4 inches that hit area snow enthusiasts and winter-dependent businesses quite hard. Traverse City's average is normally about 95 inches for the season.
"We are struggling — a really difficult year once again," said meteorologist Nick Schwartz of the National Weather Service in Gaylord. "Above-average temperatures and below-average snowfall."
Most of the snow on the ground now is from a powerful Dec. 20 storm that dropped seven to 13 inches of wet, heavy snow on the region. Beyond that, though, snow flurries seem few and far between. There's been very little lake effect snow, Schwartz said, adding, "We've had little bouts" of wintery weather.
John Lewy is the proprietor of the Heart Lake Resort, nine miles south of Gaylord.
His seven-cabin resort is popular with snowmobilers this time of year, but he gave potential customers the straight scoop about the warm temperatures coming this weekend.
"I told them not to bother (this weekend) — the snow is melting," Lewy said. "People know I give them an honest report.
"The groomers aren't operating and there's no base on the trail. We are at the hands of Mother Nature."