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Almost snowless, so far

Robert F. Bukaty | BDN
Robert F. Bukaty | BDN
A snowmobile trail sign marks a trail, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, in Bridgton, Maine. Snow lovers are still waiting for the white stuff throughout much of the Northeast.

For hikers, this winter has been great. For snowmobilers, not so good. For the Maine Department of Transportation, mixed. But there’s a lot of winter left, and anything can happen.

These frequent clear, cold days appeal to hikers. Roads and trails are mostly open and dry, but watch out for the occasional icy patch. Wear a good many layers of wool or padded clothing. Don’t forget to put on a cap, since the greatest heat loss is said to be through the head. To avoid frostbite, keep the ears covered and wear mittens instead of gloves. Fingers, like people, stay warmer if they are close together. An hour’s hike, say, along Ocean Drive in Acadia National Park can be rewarding, with the white surf breaking and the sea a striking deep blue under a cloudless sky.

Snowmobiling is something else. Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobiling Club, lives in Bath. Forty-two inches of snow fell there last winter but only 2 inches were on the ground this week. He calls this season “kind of disappointing.” He blames partly what he calls “the backyard factor”: people look out behind the house and if they see little or no snow they lose hope. Actually, there is some fine snowmobiling north of Moosehead Lake and in the northern Katahdin region and in most of Aroostook County.

Snowmobile sales are lagging at Friend and Friend in Ellsworth. The owner, Cooper Friend, emailed from a business visit to New York: “No snow equals no sales. It’s just that simple.”

For the Department of Transportation, winter is three-quarters over. The highway maintenance engineer, Brian Burne, says this is week 15 out of a total of 20. So far it has been a light snow year, although moderately stormy and wetter than usual, causing a lot of ice. Paving and construction have gone forward so that the department’s spending is $2 billion ahead of schedule. On road salt, it is 6,000 tons ahead of schedule for its 68,000-ton total.

Bob Meyers, the snowmobile official, differs on the length of winter. He sees a lot more ahead and notes that March is usually the month with the most snow. And even an April blizzard is not out of the question.

So whether you hike, snowmobile, or pave and build bridges, winter has plenty more in store.

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