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Gaylord's Snowmobile Fest canceled due to poor snow, trail conditions

Kevin Henley, who sits on the Michigan Snowmobile Festival Committee, prepares to take off in his snowmobile on Dec. 21, 2023.
Michael Livingston
IPR News
Kevin Henley, who sits on the Michigan Snowmobile Festival Committee, prepares to take off in his snowmobile on Jan. 21, 2023. (File photo: Michael Livingston/IPR News)

A lack of snow in Otsego County has caused a beloved snowmobile festival to be canceled.

That’s according to the Gaylord Tourism Bureau which has hosted the two-day event since 2015.

Marketing and communications director Christy Walcott says the decision sometimes has to be made just days ahead of the festival. This year’s event was scheduled for Feb. 2-3.

But this isn’t the first time the festival has been canceled. Walcott said activities and sponsorships will roll over into next year.

“We’re hoping for what we would call a normal winter, like what we’re used to,” Walcott said. “Where we got enough snow for people to be riding in December. The trails are open Dec. 1 to March 31. And we’d love to see another winter where people are riding for that entire duration.”

Warm waters in the Pacific Ocean — a phenomenon called an El Niño — have countered what would normally be frigid temperatures at this time of year, according to the National Weather Service's Gaylord office.

Walcott said while last year's trail conditions weren’t at their prime but the festival went off as scheduled. It drew a record attendance of over 250 participants.

She said while the decision is hard to make, winter in Northern Michigan is far from over.

“We’re hoping that we still get some good riding in this winter, even if it’s not for our snowmobile festival. I know people are pretty hungry to get out on their snowmobiles this year,” Walcott said. “If you live in northern Michigan, you know how it goes.”

The I-500, a large snowmobile race in Sault Ste. Marie, is expected to continue as scheduled this weekend.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.