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Skiing? Golf? Michigan’s Spring Has it All

May 3, 1996

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) _ How much snow has fallen in Northern Michigan this spring?

So much that a hardware store is offering a free snow shovel with each riding lawn mower sold, and a resort is keeping ski slopes open this weekend _ even as it heralds the opening of golf season.

``Bring your clubs and your skis. You can’t go wrong,″ said Steve King, advertising manager for Boyne Mountain in the northern Lower Peninsula.

While the resort grounds were mostly clear, snow was 12 to 40 inches deep on some shady hillsides, where artificial snow was added to the natural variety until March. Eight of the 27 ski slopes are open. It’s the latest that skiing has been available at Boyne Mountain since it opened in 1948.

At least two ski resorts were open in the Upper Peninsula, parts of which were socked this week by yet another blizzard. Marquette, on the southern shore of Lake Superior, got 14 inches, bringing the seasonal total to a record 251.4 inches.

``It looks like a white carpet out there. It’s great,″ 71-year-old John Noffke, of Neenah, Wis., said Friday after a morning on the slopes at Ski Brule near Iron River.

His enthusiasm isn’t widely shared.

Northern Michigan is no stranger to long, cold winters. April weather is iffy at best. But by May, people consider a snowless ground and mild temperatures a constitutional right.

Adding insult to injury, snow came earlier than usual last fall.

Ironwood, in the western Upper Peninsula, has been covered since Oct. 21. Two-foot drifts remain in nearby forests.

In the Marquette area, this is the first time since 1972 that snow has been on the ground continuously for six consecutive months, forecaster Greg Forrester said.

``I’ve lived here for most of my life except three years in Chicago, and I’ve never seen anything like this,″ said Portage Township Clerk Lynn Palo. ``We’re good at coping with bad winters up here, but we’re tired of coping.″

While winter tourism has reaped a bonanza, others have taken a financial hit.

Keeping roads plowed and potholes filled has strained local government budgets; Marquette County reported a $400,000 deficit this week. Schools will be open until mid-June making up days lost to snow.

Farmers’ planting schedules also have been thrown off and insurance claims for traffic accidents are up, said Nancy Cain, a spokeswoman for the American Automobile Association. Some Upper Peninsula rivers have flooded, damaging homes, roads and bridges.

In Hurley, Wis., just across the border from snow-covered Ironwood, a store offered a free snow shovel to anyone buying a riding lawn mower.

``It was mostly just an attention-getter,″ said Dick Grenfell, who works in the lawn and garden department of Giovanoni True Value Hardware.

``Nobody’s going to buy a riding mower just to get a snow shovel. Anyway, most people up here have snowblowers. If I had to give away all my worldly possessions, that would be the last one to go.″

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