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Don’t argue with me: winter is the best time of the year. If you tell me that you’d rather be sitting on a beach, sipping a cold drink and listening to waves crash upon a beach, I promise I’ll start tuning you out. My eyes will glaze over and visions of untouched trails and snowy mountain views will dance in my head.

But it’s not all about me.

It’s easy to overlook the hard work, dedication, and HOURS of labor that some people spend each winter keeping trails, facilities, and equipment happy. But without these people, our winters wouldn’t be the same. Cross-country ski and snowmobile trails would be ungroomed. Rinks would be dark. And fun, family-friendly one-of-a-kind activities would just be a distant dream. So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to some of the people who make winter happen, the people who keep winter going.

A labor of snowmobile love 

I had the pleasure of chatting with Reese Fleury of the Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club about what makes snowmobiling in this area so special. Check out how Reese and others in the club make winter fun, safe, and exciting!

Two people ride on a snowmobile in fresh snow

Can you describe a winter day in your line of work?

As a member of the Tupper Lake Snowmobile Club, we could be out grooming, riding, or answering questions sent to our Facebook page from riders all over. We have a Can-Am Side-by-Side with tracks that we use for grooming our local trails. Our main C7 Rail Corridor is groomed by the Town of Tupper Lake with their Tucker Terra groomer. We also clear trails' brush and sign trails as needed.

How does your work "keep winter going" so people can enjoy the trails, the outdoors, etc.?

Throughout the year we are working on trail maintenance, development and signing, and promoting snowmobiling through events. We work hard with a small number of volunteers to keep winter going. Tupper Lake has a strong tourist driven economy and winters can be tough for business owners. We hope that bringing more snowmobiling to Tupper Lake will help those businesses and encourage those visitors to come back. Keeping the trails groomed for optimal riding conditions is important to getting riders to stay and come back to Tupper Lake. We know that Tupper Lake doesn’t have an extensive trail system, but we are in the epicenter of great riding in both St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, and offer great amenities that many other areas don’t, such as restaurants, gas, and lodging.

One big task we have each year is covering and uncovering the Underwood Bridge with wood decking that allows the groomer and snowmobiles to pass safely and keep a snow base on the bridge. This job requires a handful of volunteers as it is a physically demanding task. It is important that we pick up the coverings timely each year before trains need to pass, but also due to vandalism. We work with a very limited budget and replacing the wood ‘pallets’ can be costly. Unfortunately, we have lost many to people using them for firewood or just breaking apart for no apparent reason.

A solo snowmobiler rides on a groomed trail in winter

What is one thing you want people to know about what you do?

That snowmobiling is vital to our community economy and enjoyment. So many people, young and old, enjoy snowmobiling. In our club, we are all volunteers who have careers, families, and lives outside of snowmobiling, but love the sport so we work hard to keep it going here. Our local government and community is very snowmobile-friendly and we encourage everyone to come check out Tupper Lake! We’re always interested in anyone joining our club both as a NYSSA member and as a physical volunteer.

What is your favorite part about winter in Tupper Lake?

I’m a lifelong fan of snowmobiles and an avid collector of vintage snowmobiles so I love anything to do with them – riding, repairing, showing, etc. Snowmobiling allows you to meet many new people and I have friends all over due to being related to the sport and collecting. 

(Wild) Lights. Camera. Action!

Shannon Surdyk, Education Campus Coordinator at The Wild Center, loves winter. Don't believe me? Read on to see how The Wild Center makes winter one of the best times of the year in Tupper Lake.

A family sits in the giant spider web on The Wild Walk at The Wild Center

Can you describe a winter day in your line of work?

Winter is one of my favorite times of year at The Wild Center because we offer so many outdoor winter experiences during the day. I may help a family strap on snowshoes to hit the trails in the morning, then show another group how to kick and glide on our kick sleds, all before spending an hour on Greenleaf Pond teaching the sport of ice fishing (catch and release, of course). Then just before 5 o'clock, as the sun begins to set, I'll walk our outdoor campus making sure all the lights are turned on and just right for our evening Wild Lights experience. I'll light the fires on the patio and spend my evening chatting with visitors and directing them to Wild Walk and Forest Music to enjoy the magical lights while keeping the fires stoked and toasty warm.

Two young boys sit outside at The Wild Center during winter.

How does your work "keep winter going" so people can enjoy the trails, the outdoors, etc.?

By providing snowshoes and kick sleds for our visitors, we are giving people an opportunity to take advantage of the snow and enjoy the beauty of the Adirondacks in a new way, while staying warm outdoors. And by spending countless hours meticulously setting up thousands of lights across our campus, we are providing families with a safe and magical experience to enjoy the outdoors on a winter evening.

What is one thing you want people to know about what you do?

I am the perfectionist behind Wild Lights. If a tree isn't strung perfectly or to my particular standards, it will bother me, until I restring it. I am also constantly adjusting lights throughout the winter season as they shift or fall to ensure the aesthetic look of the lights. And I love heights so I do a lot of the ladder work when it comes to setting up Wild Lights across our campus. The Twig House on Wild Walk is my masterpiece and every year we add more and more lights to it so that it shines seven higher and brighter than the year before.

A family walks through a lit forest at The Wild Walk, the trees glowing with color lights and fresh snow on the ground.

What is your favorite part about winter in Tupper Lake?

My favorite part about winter in Tupper Lake is the abundance of outdoor activities. From the groomed cross-country ski trails at the country club, kicksleds and snowshoes at The Wild Center, to skating at the Civic Center, there is so much to do! Sure, winter may be cold and long, but if you embrace it by going outside to play in the snow, it goes by way too quick!

Snow much fun!

Are you ready for winter yet? I sure am!

Next time you’re out snowmobiling or taking in the sights from The Wild Walk, be sure to take a moment to appreciate the hard work that the people behind the scenes put into your winter experience! And if you see someone stringing lights or grooming a trail, stop and say “thank you” or give them a friendly wave. After all, these are the people who keep winter going. They are the people who keep the season alive! 

So, from all of us who love winter, thank you!

Tupper Lake is ready and waiting for your next winter adventure. Cozy hotel rooms, restaurants with warm comfort foods, and plenty of outdoor activities will keep you busy all season long.