MONTAGUE The Tug Hill Plateau is famous for abundant snowfall, and snowmobile enthusiasts from across the Northeast flock to the area each winter to take advantage of the hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails winding through the bucolic countryside.
The Tug Hill, which encompasses parts of Lewis, Jefferson, Oneida and Oswego counties, receives significant lake-effect snow from Lake Ontario and averages more than 200 inches per winter, according to the National Weather Service.
Palmerton, Pa., residents Brent Mertz and Lyle Haydt traveled 262 miles to Montague last weekend when they learned of the areas most recent snowfall.
We watched the Weather Channel and saw you guys were getting hammered with snow, said Mertz, who has been snowmobiling in the Tug Hill region for the past 10 years.
Haydt said he started making the trip four years ago.
Weve never really been up here this early, he said. We usually have to wait until January.
The town of Montague is one of the Tug Hills most popular destinations for snowmobilers. Located in western Lewis County, Montague drew attention in January 1997 when an unofficial national record of 77 inches of snow fell within a 24-hour period.
Montague already has received nearly three feet of snow this season, with more of the lake-effect variety in the forecast this week.
While reveling in the recent snowfall totals, Carthage residents Curt and Charity Tripp drove to Montague on Sunday to see how much snow had accumulated. When they discovered the snowmobile trails nearby already were open, they planned to return with their vehicles the next day.
This is actually amazing to us because this is the first year that weve had this much snow (this early) in a long time, Charity Tripp said.
The Tripps ride their snowmobiles throughout the north country, connecting with several towns along the trails: Redfield, Stillwater, Osceola, Highmarket and Cranberry Lake.
Its a short-lived season; thats why Im glad to see snow, this much of it, this soon, Curt Tripp said.
Snowmobilers cite several reasons for their passion for the sport, including the adrenaline rush, stress reduction, a way to spend time with family during the winter, and enjoyment of the scenery.
Its beautiful up here; look at all the pine trees, Mertz said. Down where we are, you look at houses and highways.
nNOTES: The Montague Inn, owned by Rick and Sue Lucas, is a popular meeting place for snowmobilers. In 2000, Montague was the second-least-populated town in the state, with 108 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number dropped to 78 in 2010. The Tug Hill Plateau isnt actually a plateau because it isnt flat on top.