Published January 20, 2013, 05:00 AM

BRAD DOKKEN: Lack of snow puts a damper on winter fun — again

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this, but … whatever happened to snow? For the second winter in as many years, my snowmobile is collecting dust.

By: Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this, but … whatever happened to snow?

For the second winter in as many years, my snowmobile is collecting dust. Conditions are marginal, at best, here in Grand Forks, and while a limited amount of trail grooming is under way on Lake of the Woods and parts of Beltrami Island State Forest, the trail reports from the areas I generally ride in northwest Minnesota read like a broken record:

Poor. Fair. Unknown. Closed.

The story’s the same on the North Dakota side of the river, where a look at Thursday’s weekly trails update from Snowmobile North Dakota shows all of the trail systems along the Red remain closed “due to lack of snow.” Meanwhile, grooming is just beginning on a handful of trails in the Devils Lake area and points north, including the North Central, Peace Garden and Lake Region trail systems.

That would be expected in, say, November. But January? In North Dakota and northwest Minnesota?

That’s just sad.

There was reason for optimism last weekend, when overblown blizzard reports called for upwards of a foot of snow in some places. Areas near the Canadian border and closer to Devils Lake got 6 to 7 inches, but the final tally in Grand Forks was a paltry 2½ inches.

That’s not to say it was a pleasant weekend to be outside, thanks to gale-force winds and freezing rain that turned streets, sidewalks and highways into skating rinks. But as far as snow goes, the storm the Herald dubbed “Blizzard Aaron” left a lot to be desired by my admittedly lofty snowstorm standards.

Last Saturday morning, I looked out the front door hoping to see my sidewalks buried under several inches of snow. They were covered in white, but the sight that greeted me fell far short of expectations.

Rather than battle with a snow blower that hasn’t been started in two years, I opted to clear my driveway and sidewalks with the snow scoop that’s become the standard implement of removal the past two winters.

It certainly took less time than trying to coax a machine that’s shown temperamental tendencies into starting after a two-year hiatus.

In Minnesota, the statewide snow conditions report the Department of Natural Resources releases every Thursday shows snow cover in much of the state, but it’s typically 2 inches to 4 inches or 4 inches to 8 inches — paltry for January in Minnesota. Only a small band along the far northern border, including Lake of the Woods and the Northwest Angle, has 8 to 12 inches. Farther east, a tiny portion of the Arrowhead has more than a foot of snow.

Large areas of southeast and far southern Minnesota have little to no snow at all.

In Duluth, organizers of the annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon this past week postponed the race until March 10 in hopes that snow conditions improve.

Trails in that part of the state took a pounding during last weekend’s rainfall.

“I don’t know that we really had any choice but to postpone,” race coordinator Pat Olson told Steve Kuchera of Forum News Service on Tuesday. “It was tough, but the trail is terrible. The rain sealed the deal.”

If there’s not adequate snow cover in March, organizers could be forced to cancel the race for the third time ever and the second time in as many years, Kuchera reported. Last year’s race also was canceled.”

March can be a snowy month, for sure, but last year, what little snow we had was gone by the middle of the month. I used the snowmobile to haul wood March 10, and the next weekend, I was doing yardwork at the cabin — work I normally couldn’t have done until mid-May.

I’m sure hoping that’s not the case this year. And if we ever get a good dumping of snow instead of the annoying little dustings that have characterized this winter, I promise not to complain.

The yardwork will keep.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1148; or send email to