CARIBOU, Maine — Kathy Mazzuchelli has a term for the buzzing snowsleds that zip by on the distant trails — “snowbees.”
“And whenever I start to hear that sound in increasing frequency, I smile because I know what sound will come next,” she said Wednesday. “And that is ‘ka-ching, ka-ching.’”
The universal sound of cash pouring into coffers is being heard more often in Aroostook County now that two significant snowstorms since the dawn of 2012 have jump-started the sluggish winter economy.
Up to 10 inches of new snow was forecast for some parts of Aroostook and Penobscot counties before the latest storm wound down late Wednesday or early Thursday. Other parts of Penobscot, Piscataquis and Washington counties saw mostly sleet and freezing rain.
In Aroostook County, Caribou had picked up 5.7 inches of snow by 3 p.m. Wednesday, while Houlton had 7 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Caribou. Approximately 5 inches had fallen in Presque Isle and St. Agatha. While schools in Stacyville, Hodgdon and Danforth canceled classes, school remained in session in Houlton, Presque Isle and much of the St. John Valley. Snow still was falling lightly at 3 p.m. in Houlton.
Mazzuchelli, Caribou Parks and Recreation superintendent and the voice of snowmobiling in northern Maine, said Wednesday that trails throughout The County are in prime condition. She added that the benefit of a midweek storm is it allows groomers to shape trails perfectly for weekend snowsledders.
“We have had a wicked, wicked slow start,” she acknowledged. “But the trails are great now, not just for sledding, but snowshoeing and skiing as well. The last two weeks in The County really have been fabulous. Most of the businesses I have talked to say they are getting more calls and hotel bookings, and I am getting more calls from out-of-staters.”
Three weeks ago at the outdoor sports store Mojo in Presque Isle, manager Mark Fullen was looking at a significant stock of snowshoes and skis that would have been gone in years past. He said that a lack of snow in the past few years has lulled people into waiting for the first few big storms before purchasing equipment.
On Wednesday, the picture was totally different.
“I would say that we’ve experienced a full turnaround,” he said. “We’ve had more people in here buying skis and snowshoes, equipment and apparel. We have finally got enough snow to schedule [ski and snowshoe] wax clinics. It is nice to see.”
On Jan. 2 at Big Rock in Mars Hill, the ski area was relying mostly on man-made snow. By Wednesday afternoon, it had a base depth of between 16 and 32 inches of powder and packed powder and all of its trails were open. A free ski night was scheduled for later in the evening.
Police in Fort Kent reported a few minor accidents and the Caribou Police Department reported some cars off the road. Two minor accidents took place in Presque Isle.
In other parts of the state, less than an inch was recorded by 3 p.m. in Hancock County’s Deer Isle while Mattawamkeag in Penobscot County had 4 inches. Bangor picked up 2.5 inches. About 3 inches fell on Milo in Piscataquis County and Topsfield in Washington County.