January 5, 2009
Snowmobilers fuel economy
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Ted Garrison, right, and Lois Osgood, both of Greene, park their snowmobiles at Hiawatha Inn after stopping in Truxton for food and gas Saturday while touring Cortland County.
Sharon Toussaint, owner of the Three Bear Inn in Marathon, said snowmobilers generate about 30 percent of the restaurant’s revenue at this time of year.
The Three Bear Inn is just two blocks from a snowmobiling trail that leads to Whitney Point and other areas throughout the state.
Toussaint said summer is her best season for business, but snowmobilers and cross country skiers provide a needed boost during winter.
“My business doesn’t go up in the winter but without the snow it would be devastating,” Toussaint said.
Other restaurants, gas stations and hotels located near snowmobiling trails also depend on winter sports participants for revenue.
As of April 2, 2008, there were 1,223 registered snowmobilers in Cortland County, 771 in Tompkins County and 1,349 in Broome County.
Five members of the Twin Bridges Snowmobiling Club in McGraw agreed that between food, gas, repairs and clothing, they spend about $100 each day they ride.
Like other snowmobilers, they go to certain restaurants and gas stations located close to the snowmobiling trails that wind through the state. The restaurants include Denny’s Mountainview in Preble, the Hiawatha Inn in Truxton, Truxton Diner and Centro’s Hotel in DeRuyter.
Last year they were hoping the McGraw Village Board would apply to the state for permission for snowmobilers to use a couple of roads leading into the village so that they could stop and eat or shop there. In McGraw there are restaurants called the Empire Inn, Malarkey’s, McGraw Pizzeria and China Wok Chinese Restaurant.
“All of those businesses aren’t benefitting because we can’t get there,” said Dave Heider of Solon.
A couple of members of the Village Board opposed the idea because of concerns about noise from the snowmobilers and concerns about them drinking in the bars, said Village Board trustee Allan Stauber. Stauber said he would most likely support the idea if it were brought before the board again.
“I think if they (snowmobilers) come into the village they’re going to spend money. They’ll definitely use our restaurants and our taverns,” Stauber said.
He said the snowmobiles are not very noisy and that drinking poses an equal problem for people driving cars. Stauber said a couple of the members who opposed the idea are no longer on the board.
Dave Law, owner of CNY Power Sports in Polkville, said that while snowmobilers certainly put a lot of money into the economy. He predicts that this will continue, despite the slump in the natinonal economy.
“Forget the economy,” Law said Saturday inside his store. “When it snows, people want to go play. So they’re going to find a way to buy a snowmobile.”
Law said he sold five snowmobiles on Saturday and his sales are about average this year.
In a typical season, which lasts three to four months, he said he sells about 150 snowmobiles.
Law said his customers at CNY Power Sports have told him one of their main concerns is not being able to access gas stations in Polkville, and having instead to go to Homer or Marathon for gas.
While eating hamburgers at the Truxton Diner on Saturday, Ted Garrison and Lois Osgood, residents of Greene, said they each spent about $8,000 for their snowmobiles and $1,000 over the years on their snowmobiling clothing
Garrison is the vice president of the Greene Drift Riders and Osgood is the secretary of the club.
Garrison said the state could do more to take advantage of the positive economic impact of snowmobilers by giving a tax break to the private landowners who let snowmobiling clubs create trails on their land. Right now, he said, there is no benefit for the landowners.
Jackie Creedan, who works at Truxton Diner and used to work at Lori’s, the restaurant located there prior to Truxton Diner’s opening last March, said snowmobilers are an important source of business at the restaurant.
“It does help the businesses in small towns like this,” Creedan said.
Charlie Brown, owner of Brown’s Garage and Sunoco station in Truxton, said on the weekends he gets a 10 or 15 percent boost in business from snowmobilers.
About three years ago, he began keeping his gas pumps open at night at a request from a snowmobiling club.
He said that because snowmobiles do not get high gas mileage, riders need to fill up when riding late at night. He closes the pumps after the snow season ends.
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