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New England ski areas contract case of ‘snow envy’

DAVID SHARP
Associated Press Writer

PORTLAND, Maine – Snow? What snow?

Snowless New England states that rely on it for their winter activities are green with envy watching the Mid-Atlantic get blanketed with back-to-back blizzards.

So little snow fell in Maine’s largest city that Portland canceled its winter festival. In Vermont, no snow meant no sculpting contest. And in New Hampshire, the lack of snow nixed a dog sled race.

“We were thinking of getting the dog teams down to Washington and giving President Obama a ride,” said Jim Lyman, president of the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club, which had to cancel this weekend’s race in Laconia.

But the unusual snow pattern hasn’t been restricted to the East Coast: They had to bring out the shovels in parts of Texas, which received more than a foot of snow on Thursday. And the storm continued dropping or threatening snow Friday across the Deep South, including Florida’s Gulf Coast.

There’s been weird weather elsewhere, as well. Northern Arizona was hammered late last month with near-record snow, rain and flooding that made roads impassable and cut off the Navajo and Hopi nations. Detroit got 6 inches Wednesday but overall is slightly behind on snowfall.

In New Hampshire, Lyman marvels at the region’s bad luck. He has resorted in the past to trucking in snow for the dog sled teams. But this year, there was no snow anywhere in the region as he watched two storms head to the south.

“It’s hard to fathom,” Lyman said. “It’s not like we’re missing it by much. The nor’easters are still coming. But for whatever reason, they’re all going south.”

Art DeGaetano of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Regional Climate Center at Cornell University says El Nino conditions in the Pacific Ocean have helped create the persistent, southerly storm track this winter, causing storms to miss northern New England and upstate New York.

Boston readied itself this week for a forecast foot of snow. Schools closed and businesses let workers go home early. But the storm never materialized. Grand total: 1 inch, and it melted by the following morning. Meanwhile, more than 18 inches fell on the Mid-Atlantic.

Baltimore has gotten record snowfall, 77.9 inches, more than Buffalo, N.Y., and Caribou, Maine, two places known for their snowy winters. Snowfall records have also been shattered in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Wilmington, Del., and Atlantic City, N.J.

In Portland, this weekend was supposed to be full of traditional winter frolicking in Portland: snowball fights, snowman building, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, snow sculpting and snow painting. But without any significant snowfall in Maine for the past three weeks, the city lacks the one key ingredient needed for all those activities, and had to cancel its Winter Rush festival.

Adding insult to injury was a January rainstorm that washed away much of the snow that had piled up, leaving bare ground at a time when it’s supposed to be a winter wonderland.

“We’re definitely having snow envy,” said Sally DeLuca, Portland’s recreation director, who canceled all Winter Rush activities except for a road race and a polar plunge.

In Vermont, a snow shortage forced the postponement of a snow sculpture contest for a second time in the town of Barre. The competition calls for 6-foot cubes of snow – 20 of them in all – that are packed solid before being carved into intricate works of art by local stone sculptors.

But there was no snow nearby and no budget for trucking in snow, said Sue Higby of Studio Place Arts, the competition’s sponsor. Higby decided not to take any chances.

“We’ve decided to postpone the snow sculpture competition – to next year,” she said.

For the most part, ski resorts seem to be holding their own. Most can make snow as long as the temperature is cold enough.

“It’s unfortunate when you see all of our friends down in Baltimore and Washington under two, three feet of snow,” said Tom Meyers, Wachusett Mountain Ski Area’s marketing director in Massachusetts. “They don’t appreciate it like we do.”

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Associated Press writers Clarke Canfield in Portland, Jay Lindsay in Boston, Jeff Karoub in Detroit, Amanda Lee Myers in Phoenix and John Curran in Burlington, Vt., contributed to this report.


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