Lack of winter concerns businesses that rely on snow

December 29, 2011 (CHICAGO)

City governments are thrilled because precious resources are conserved, but many businesses depend on the snow and cold.

Sam Gye has all his snow removal equipment ready but nowhere to go with it. He bought two new $50,000 plow trucks this year, but with no significant snowfall this winter so far, he has yet to break them in.

"I was expecting to have some money coming in December," said Gye of S & M Plow Corp. "Tough situation to be in."

Gye also has 30 seasonal employees and none of them has worked at all so far this year.

It's a big difference from last December when the Chicago area had snow by Thanksgiving. And it continued through the holidays.

The city of Chicago spent $6 million on snow removal last December. So far this December, it has spent just about half a million. So at this point, the city is on pace for significant savings. But that also means people aren't buying shovels, salt and snowblowers from local hardware stores.

"People don't come in until they see snow," said Jesse Ramirez of ACE Hardware. "yeah, a lot of last minute."

The lack of snow is one thing. But the warm temperatures have made it difficult for ski areas like Villa Olivia in Bartlett to make artificial snow.

And it's not just the Chicago area. Viking Ski Shop sells equipment to customers who travel all over the country, but very few areas have much snow so far this season.

"We're down about 20 percent from last year," said Bob Olson of Viking Ski Shop.

Of course this is still just December and we still have lots more winter to go. A spokesman for the city Streets and Sanitation Department said you can't count the money they haven't spent on snow removal so far as savings until the winter is over.

And it's a long way from over.

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