By DAVE GYMBURCH Sentinel staff writer

LOOKING FOR SNOW ¿ Snow was being sprayed with water and packed down at the Boonville fairgrounds earlier this week in preparation for the Boonville Snow Festival, but lack of snow has prompted plans to postpone part of the event that originally was set for Jan. 26-29. New tentative dates include Jan. 28 and 29 for snocross racing and some other activities, while ice oval racing and events including fireworks and a parade are reschduled for Feb. 10-12. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

HELLO, WINTER! ¿ Rome's virturally snowless winter changed quickly today. When volunteer Sandra Gotti entered St. Peter's Church this morning, there was no white in sight. It was very different when she returned to her van. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

Friday the 13th was lucky for people who enjoy winter recreation, but the long-stalled arrival of significant snow is not enough to prevent a partial postponement of the upcoming Boonville Snow Festival.

Meanwhile, for immediate general snowmobiling, riders who will be getting their first opportunity of the season are urged to be careful about tricky conditions that could include water puddles below-surface, mudholes, and downed branches.

The Boonville Snow Festival II that had been scheduled for Jan. 26-29 will be divided into two weekends according to tentative plans made this week, said David S. Ernst, a member of the festival board of directors.

New dates include Jan. 28 and 29 for events including snocross

racing and sled dog races, while Feb. 10-12 will include ice oval racing, fireworks, a parade, and more sled dog races among the activities, he said.

New plans call for using snowmaking equipment to help build a sufficient base to conduct the festival, Ernst said. The equipment will cost an extra $5,000-$10,000, but he said the expense will be covered by contributions from the Town of Boonville and the BRP company which makes Ski-Doo snowmobiles and is one of the festival’s major sponsors. The equipment, from the East Coast SnoCross organization, hopefully can be in use this weekend, he added.

Based on forecast, today’s new snowfall " not really enough to be able to plan a full festival for the coming weekend," Ernst noted. The events "need at least a couple of feet of snow" for preparations that include "snow bleachers" for the spectators’ area.

The snowmaking equipment will help provide "enough to make the track for snocross" racing, said Ernst. But preparations also require "a lot of water for the ice oval," so the festival will "take an extra two weeks for the ice oval," he explained.

The forecast called for 6-12 inches of snow in northern Oneida County including Boonville through tonight, while the more southerly areas including Rome and Utica were projected to receive 5-8 inches through tonight. A chance for snow showers is expected over the next few days but no further large accumulations are specified.

The roller-coaster-style temperature extremes are predicted to include lows near zero Saturday night, but highs in the upper 30s by Tuesday with a chance of rain and snow showers.

As for snowfall needed for general snowmobiling, "we least six inches before people go out," said Jim Rolf, a trail coordinator for the New York State Snowmobile Association and past president of the Oneida County Snowmobile Association. Today’s snow was expected to provide the "first opportunity" for riders, he said, adding that no trails in the county had been officially opened up to now.

However, while "everybody is really anxious to get out," Rolf said riders need to "use common sense and realize there could be anything out there" and they may "come across hazardous conditions on trails." He cited possibilities for downed branches or trees along with "deep mud holes" plus "a lot of ponding of water" below the snow on ground that was partially frozen. It is riders’ "responsibility to realize what’s going on," he remarked, and they need to "be careful, be alert."

Rolf urged riders to contact local snowmobile clubs when they spot conditions on trails that need attention. Information for reaching the clubs is at online.

The snowfall should be welcomed by businesses that support snowmobiling and have been "basically starving at this point" in terms of that economic impact, observed Rolf. Among examples, he said, are various snowmobile shops for repairs and accessories, gas stations, restaurants and hotels.