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Lack of snow tough on snowmobilers, businesses who rely on sled traffic during winter months

Trails are closed and snowmobiles have been parked as riders and local business owners pray for snow to salvage the season.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The weather has put the brakes on snowmobile season in Western New York, and that's affecting businesses that bank on snowmobile traffic this time of year.

Dealerships, service shops, restaurants, and gas stations are all feeling the pinch because there aren't any riders heading to their businesses like they normally would when the trails are open and the riding is good.

Matt Kelchlin, vice president of Ken's Service & Sales in Elma, said the snow that fell earlier this winter adds insult to injury because it fell too early — before snowmobile trails could open — and it all disappeared before riders could take advantage of the winter weather.

The extreme cold we are seeing this week is normally welcomed by snowmobilers because it ensures the trails are solid enough to ride on, but there's one problem: no snow on the trails.

Kelchlin says he can judge how good a season is for his business based on sales of parts and service, even snowmobile gear. He says those sales are down 48% compared to this time last year. 

"When you don't have a season, you don't have people out wrecking machines or having accidents, using oil or wearing out carbides — the stuff you use while you're out riding. If you're not riding, you don't need that stuff," said Kelchlin.

His snowmobile sales, especially pre-orders, were strong at the end of the 2021-2022 season because those sales came off the heels of a good riding season. He's not sure how fired up people will be to buy new snowmobiles after how rough this season has been so far. 

When the trails are open, Byrncliff Golf Resort and Banquets in Wyoming County is a popular destination for local snowmobilers and also for those who come from out of town.

"[When the riding is good] we can open at 8 or 9 o'clock and by noon there are 150 snowmobiles out front. The restaurant's packed," said Brian Eddy, president and CEO.

That's not the case this year. The lack of riding means a lack of customers.

Byrncliff is open to host events, and the restaurant is open, though just a few days a week with limited hours.

"We're just kind of limited right now on operations due to the weather, but we're crossing our fingers that hopefully February will be a little better," Eddy said.

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