It's really cold out. Even if I take my shoes off before heading inside, snow still ends up all over the house, getting my socks wet. There is ice that makes walking and driving tricky.
The sun isn't out very much. The wind is brutal. Shoveling is hard work. It takes extra time to start my vehicle in the morning, and I have to get up even earlier to clear the driveway. My pipes might freeze. The office lobby has to be mopped more often. And so on.
There seem to be a lot of people who live here who don't like this weather. I like the snow but am not crazy about extreme cold, especially when it spans days at a time. But I am hoping that I can remind us all of a few things that are positive about this year's great winter.
For the snow enthusiasts, the last few winter seasons weren't all that great. There are people who like to ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile who didn't get much of an opportunity to do any of that. I think I only went cross country skiing once last season. I've gone more than a dozen times this season, and it's not even February.
Just like there were people who longed for snow, there were plenty of businesses that wanted snow as well. As people, we can easily fill the time we would have spent on the snow with another activity. For a business that relies on the snow (businesses that sell recreational equipment for use with the snow, equipment to remove the snow, or services to deal with snow removal), the options are much more limited. This year, those businesses are experiencing a much better season. That added revenue for them means trickle down impact for everyone else. Employees who may not have been working last season are working now. Money that wasn't being spent in the community is now circulating.
The snow is also a boost for tourism. Few people came into Alpena to utilize our beautiful cross country ski trails (maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers - thank you!) the last few years. This year, plenty of people are making their way into the area to use the trails. You might not think cross country skiing means much to the economy. But think about how many of them might stop for food or fuel while they are in the area.
Snowmobile tourism is up as well. Think about the restaurants in the outlying areas that rely on the snow to bring them customers on snowmobiles. Customers who might not choose to stop for a meal outside the home if they weren't out riding the trails. In addition, there are also tourism dollars from ice fishing, the snow cross event at the fairgrounds (I'm optimistic that it will go well - I'm writing this before the event but it will be printed after the event), and other recreation. Winter tourism brings in a considerable amount of income that we wouldn't see in a winter with much less snow.
Maybe you are thinking right now that the snowfall is good in many ways, but what about the extreme cold? There can't be anything good about that! Ahh, but there is. I just got done reading an article about the extreme cold and the positive impact it is expected to have on our water levels. I'm not a scientist but the article said the extra ice, and ice in places that don't always freeze will help keep evaporation levels low throughout the year. That's great news for our declining water levels.
Let's rewrite the first paragraph of this column.
The extreme cold means positive news for our water levels. There is a lot of snow this year, and that's great for our businesses that rely on snow. Shoveling is hard work, but it's also a great workout. Snow gets tracked into the house from our boots, but even boots are a bonus feature of snow. They are much more comfortable than the high heels of summer.
See? It's not so bad. Besides, we choose to live here. It's no secret that it snows and gets cold in Northern Michigan. We knew that when we made the choice to live here so let's appreciate it and enjoy this great Northern Michigan winter.
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.