Slow start to winter has businesses preparing for the worst, hoping for the best

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - In many areas of eastern Iowa, people might have trouble finding any snow. For those businesses that rely on snow, that makes things difficult.

Corey Koppes (right) works on a snowblower at KickGrass, Inc. He said they typically expect the store to be filled with winter weather machines for them to maintain. (Aaron Scheinblum, KCRG)

Back in early November, businesses were preparing for the first snowfall of the year. At Sundown Mountain Resort, they opened on one of the earliest dates in history.

But despite that early beginning, the winter is still off to a slow start.

For businesses like the one Corey Koppes owns, KickGrass, Inc., they rely on the snow. At least, when it actually comes.

"Well it's been slow, we expect a lot more snow than this," Koppes said.

Koppes is in charge of fixing up snowblowers, sometimes covered in dust, with signs of sitting in the garage. But lately, he has not seen much snow early in the season.

"Pretty much every year it's about the same," Koppes said. "We may not get snow now, but you know these next couple months we could just get hammered with snow and it will make up for the average- you never know."

According to TV9 First Alert Storm Team's Justin Gehrts, in the last thirty years, Dubuque typically sees 14.6 inches of snow between the months of November and December. In 2018, Dubuque only saw 6.3 inches.

The lack of snow is problematic for businesses like KickGrass, Inc. He expects his shop to be filled with snowblowers at this point in the season. Koppes said he is not concerned yet, but if the lack of snow continues, they may have to shift their focus to other types of engines sooner rather than later.

"It's pretty much a wash- we're not too worried about it, but if we got a lot more snow this year, it would have been a pretty good year," Koppes said.

Over at Sundown Mountain Resort, it is no secret they, too, rely on cold weather and snow. As of late, cold weather has allowed them to make a hefty majority of their snow, leading to one of their earliest openings in the mountain resort's history.

With temperatures in the mid-to-high 40's in the forecast in the upcoming days, that can create problems for them making snow.

But General Manager Mark Gordon says they are already in the process of preparing for it.

"We're kind of putting some insurance on the hill," Gordon said. "We went from about a foot and a half base to two foot."

For Gordon, cooperating weather is instrumental for their success. Not only to keep the trails open, but to keep their customers happy.

"We've got a lot of pass members that expect to be able to come out and ski," Gordon said. "And whether it's prime conditions or a little less, we stay open as much as we humanly can in a safe manner."

Gordon said the mountain is in no danger of closing, as they continue to take advantage of their early start to the ski season.

As the temperatures creep up the thermostat, all snow businesses can do is stay optimistic.

"There's nothing in town, there's like a dusting, and we're sitting on two foot of packed powder everywhere," Gordon said.

"Always gotta look at the glass half-full," Koppes said.