Mild early-season weather take toll on Ontonagon Couty

ONTONAGON, Mich. (WLUC) - Ontonagon County Road Commission Foreman, Dale Karttunen is charge of the entire northern half of the County. He says his drivers work long hours all season long, no matter what the weather is like.

"There are days those guys are in the trucks 11 to 12 hours a day. They’re some long shifts, staring at that snow coming at you all day long," Karttunen acknowledged.

But this season has been especially tiresome and costly for the Commission. Karttunen says they've used a lot more salt that usual.

"We've used more than what we normally do. We're probably a month beyond where we should be right now," Karttunen reckoned.

That's the price we pay for the mild weather. The freeze, thaw and repeat scenario is hard on U.P. roads and on the Road Commission's bottom line.

They like colder weather. The more fluffy the snow, the better. And Karttunen says they're finally getting into weather more typical of U.P. winters.

"By far, it's less expensive because we're not using the salt that we normally use. The snow is a lot lighter to plow. It just makes for a better driving surface too when we do have a little bit of snow on the roads versus the black ice," asserted Karttunen.

Meanwhile Bill Perrin, Mountain Manager at the Porcupine Mountains Ski Area says the mild weather has also hit their bottom line.

"We were unable to open the week of Christmas. We lost quite a bit there," Perrin figured.

"We got open before the first of the year. The hill is all white but it's a little thin. So it's just now starting to really take off. This weekend should get quite a bit better," calculated Perrin.

All 19 of their runs are open. But they don't use snow guns. They rely totally on Mother Nature to provide their snow pack. This time of year, that snow primarily comes from lake effect snow.

They only groom the east side of the hill, says Perrin.

"And then we try to leave the west side for powder. We've got a lot of people like the powder skiing. And we've got quite a few glades. We’ve done a lot of work in the past few years opening up our glades for tree skiing,” Perrin boasted.

They’re open Friday through Monday, 9am to 5pm eastern time. They’ve got some outstanding festivals coming up very soon and plenty of snow to go around.

Click here to visit their website.