TOWNSEND - Despite the warmer weather, some people are still thinking winter.Snowmobilers hit the trails in the Northwoods Monday.Riders in Oconto County say the conditions are great.And the sport fuels winter tourism in the area.
Business owners in the Lakewood-Townsend area say they expect an extended season.Jim Rablin and his group started their trip in Vilas County Monday morning."Ended up coming down here, the railroad grade was pretty good, nice and smooth. Groomers were out this morning," said Jim Rablin, snowmobiler.The snowmobilers stopped for gas at the Townsend Shell station.The owner says it's been a good season."The food is way up, in-store sales have been very good. Everything blended out right now, we're running about 20 percent ahead of last year," said Rob Seeber, Townsend Shell station owner.It's a similar story next door at the Old Town Hall bar and restaurant."Business-wise it's been great. We have a lot of snowmobilers on the weekends. Cold weather, could have been a little nicer, but snowmobiling has been awesome," said Josh Banie, Old Town Hall bar and restaurant owner.Since before Christmas, riders have been zooming up and down the trails near Townsend.The trails and the sleds have come a long way."Years ago, if you had 125 miles in one weekend, you were feeling pretty good. Now, the majority of the riders out there, they're getting 100-125 before breakfast,"said Joe Kampf, Red Arrow Snowmobile ATV Club.Joe Kampf grooms many of the area trails. He says the season normally winds down this time of the year."The 15th of March is probably the target date. If we could hold until then, looks like we're going to run a weekend or two beyond that," said Kampf."We'll have a great weekend coming up, that would get us into the middle of March, and then everything after that is just icing on the cake," said Seeber.Snowmobilers enjoyed the day, while it lasted."Wish it wasn't quite this warm, because this isn't going to last much longer. With the sun out today, it's definitely taking a toll on things," said Rablin.There are nine snowmobile clubs in Oconto County.They help maintain about 500 miles of trails.
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