Last week's snowfall dumped about a foot onto ski and snowmobile trails in the Black Hills, improving the conditions from fair to good. But unless you live or work above 3,500 feet, it's hard to picture.
A drive past Bridal Veil Falls into Spearfish Canyon or south of Lead to higher elevations tells the story, as one goes from dry ground to snow-packed roads and several feet of snow.
With a three-day weekend fresh behind them, snow-related businesses in the Northern Hills are keeping their fingers crossed that more snow forecast for Wednesday and Thursday bumps the good conditions up to excellent.
Linda Ahlers, general manager of Spearfish Canyon Lodge, said their Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday was good. Sleds, both guest-owned and those rented at the lodge's snowmobile center were running all weekend, and colder temperatures and fresh snowfall on Monday made for good riding.
The lodge typically gets an inch of fresh snow every night during the winter months, she said. “We're getting snow. They are grooming the trails, and it's been snowing all day,” said Ahlers.
“This weekend will be awesome (with snow in the forecast for mid-week),” she added. “We're looking forward to all of our wonderful snowmobiler friends coming out and enjoying the trails.”
At nearby Terry Peak Ski Area, marketing manager Linda Derosier experienced a similar weekend.
Although colder temperatures on Monday may have kept some snow enthusiasts home, she said the weekend was real good overall.
“We're just gearing up for the season and the rest of our events for the season,” said Derosier.
Snow crews at the ski area are planning to make snow all week, she said. With more snow in the forecast, Derosier is looking forward to a great weekend.
Bob VanDeest, owner of Trailshead Lodge at O'Neill Pass, said they are still riding the wave from last week's snowfall. A couple inches of fresh snow fell on Monday and the weather forecast calls for a 20 to 30 percent chance of snow later in the week. He'll take whatever they can get.
“We've got decent snow and trail riding is good,” he said.
While VanDeest would like to see a lot more snow for safe meadow riding, the snow keeps coming, and every bit helps.
Like the other proprietors, Recreational Springs Resort general manager Charity Woslager is still waiting for a "big" snow day, but she's not complaining about the business they've had so far this season.
"The weekend was great," said Woslager. "It was really good for us on Saturday. We had a lot of people in and out of here, and all our sleds rented out."
Woslager tested the snowmobile trails herself on Friday, riding from Rec Springs to Mystic Hills Campground off Highway 385.
"The (groomed snowmobile) trails were really good," she said.
The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks website lists updated conditions for the more than 350 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in the state. It lists conditions in the Northern Hills, including the areas around Gravel Pit, Big Hill, Cement Ridge and Roughlock Falls as "good."
Trails from Deadwood and Lead, south to the Custer Peak lot and west to the Dumont warming shelter are listed as "fair to good." with an additional 4-7 inches of new snow.
Visit sd.gov/to-do/snowmobile/conditions.aspx for trail updates.