By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – If you take one very quick step outside, it surely feels like winter — but take a look and it’s not measuring up to what we’re used to in Minnesota.

So far this season, the Twin Cities has had 7.2 inches of snow, which is about 16 inches below average. That’s compared to the 18.1 inches of snow we had last year by this time. Less snow means less shoveling, but there are many people who would prefer the opposite.

Standing outside a home in New Brighton, the front yard looks pretty normal with a slight coating of snow, but to the frustrated artists who live there, it’s a canvas — and sadly for them, it’s blank.

“It’s been pretty lame compared to most winters,” Austin Bartz said.

“Kind of hard to build a sculpture when you don’t have anything to build it with,” his brother Trevor said.

The Bartz brothers, including a third named Connor, are well-known for their annual snow sculptures that attract people from all across the Twin Cities. Over the past six winters, they say their sculptures are have been finished by New Year’s Day. But a dusting or just an inch of snow here and there, like they’ve had in December, do them no good.

“We probably need about four more inches of good, plowable snow,” Connor said. “We just need it to be able to be plowed so we can get some bigger piles.”

Snow removal companies have taken a hit as well. Tiny Sandman‘s Lawn, Snow and Painting Services in south Minneapolis has kept relatively busy. The company focuses mainly on residential snow removal using snow blowers and shovels.

Michael Anderson, the company’s owner, can clearly tell the Twin Cities is seeing about 16 inches below average in terms of snowfall.

“It’s just not like it used to be 10 to 15 years ago for the snow business,” he said.

Anderson said 75 percent of customers pay a monthly rate, meaning he makes money with or without snow. But the customers who pay per service haven’t called as much.

“We were probably out there twice,” he said.

It’s possible his business could pick up come February or March, but the clock is ticking for the Bartz brothers who are hopeful their next creation will be on display in time for the Super Bowl.

“If we don’t get snow within the next week, it’ll make things extremely difficult, and I don’t know if we’ll be able to do it this year,” Autsin said. “Just because [my brothers] will be back at school and it’ll only be me at home.”

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