February weather leaves little for trail usersHad the past month brought with it a few snowstorms, cross-country skiers would have made great use of the Cannon Valley Trail. Had it been free of snow altogether, bikers would no doubt be out in full force.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Had the past month brought with it a few snowstorms, cross-country skiers would have made great use of the Cannon Valley Trail. Had it been free of snow altogether, bikers would no doubt be out in full force.
But instead of remaining on one end of the spectrum, February’s weather switched from light snow one day to melted mess the next.
“This winter overall has been very difficult because there’s not enough snow to cross-country ski but there’s enough snow to cause problems for people with bikes,” explained Scott Roepke, Cannon Valley Trail manager.
Roepke said a typical February displaying good snow conditions would bring about 150 skiers out to the trail throughout the month. But 2012 saw an incredibly different turnout.
“Believe it or not, one day I caught two people cross-country skiing,” Roepke said, adding that the conditions still weren’t ideal. “There were patches of asphalt that they could see.”
Before the most recent storm Tuesday — which combined snow with rain and sleet — less than 1 inch of snow accumulated during the entire month, according to official measurements at Red Wing waste water treatment plant.
That amount is a stark difference from the nearly 14 inches that fell in February 2011.
“I truly believe in the law of averages,” Roepke said. “Maybe next year we’ll have a great year.”
The lack of snow accumulation was due in part to the warmer-than-average temperatures during the month. On Feb. 6, the temperature reached 44 degrees, the highest of the month.
February’s average temperature was 28 degrees, while the longtime average is 20.
Not only have the temperatures caused less use of the trail, they’ve also caused a reduced need for grooming the trail. While minimal grooming can make for easier upkeep, Roepke said he would prefer to be getting more use out of the new ski groomer that the Cannon Valley Trail purchased last fall.
“We spent quite a bit of money on that groomer and we’ve had it out twice,” he explained.
About two weeks remain before March 15 when the trail typically stops being groomed for skiing and starts being prepared for the spring season. If any more snow is going to show up before winter’s end, Roepke said he’d like it to come as soon as possible.
“I’m hoping it would snow here so at least people could get a good couple weeks of skiing in,” he said. “It’s just kind of frustrating. We want to provide some recreation, but it’s really kind of difficult to do that.”
Fortunately, the unusual conditions in February didn’t eliminate use of the trail entirely. Hikers were still out and about.
“The snow doesn’t seem to bother people walking,” Roepke said.
Will the unpredictable weather from February carry over into March to close out the season with barely a trace of winter? The Cannon Valley Trail manager said the same thing all other Minnesotans are probably thinking.
“My prediction is, who knows?” he joked.