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Snowmobilers Bring Business and Hope to the New Year

Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

Vilas County’s snowmobile trails opened just in time to kick off 2021, pleasing both snowmobilers and local business owners.

John and Lisa Jonas are out for their first snowmobile ride of the winter.

“It's certainly early season, but it's great to get out," John said. "Things are fun, we’re glad they opened [the trails].”

They’re not the only ones eager for the start of snowmobile season.

“We have people chomping at the bit,” said Al Murray, the Vilas County Forest Administrator.

Murray said conditions on the trails aren’t great, but that doesn’t seem to matter to snowmobiling visitors or local business owners alike.

That’s because some of the area’s hotels, restaurants and shops depend on winter tourists to generate income.

For example, Justin Behling is the general manager at Wild Eagle Lodge in Eagle River, WI.

He said the week of Christmas is normally one of their busiest weeks of the year.

“We typically would be sold out or close to sold out,” he said.

This year, between COVID-19 and closed snowmobile trails, that wasn’t the case.

“Lots of traffic that normally comes over the holidays," he said, "either canceled or did not come.”

Now that the trails are open, business is picking up for some places.

Chris Petreikis is one of the owners of Track Side, a business that rents snowmobiles.

Credit Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

“Trails legally opened up at 8 this morning. Rentals were going out at 9,” he said.

Petreikis said 2020 was a challenging year for many businesses nearby, and he’s ready for the blank slate of a new year.

“We’re looking forward to 2021 and trying to get this past this,” he said.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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