Not too long ago, Ron Fournier walked out onto North Pond, drilled holes for a day of ice fishing and returned to find three of the tourists in his ice shack wearing life jackets. A fourth had one cradled on his lap.
The ice was 32 inches thick.
“They’d never been on a frozen body of water,” said Fournier, 42, the owner of Orion Outfitters and Guide Service in Mason Township.
It was one of three groups he took out on the ice that week.
During the cold season, people hire him to help them fish, collect moose antlers on snowshoe treks and lead trips in the woods.
Business was better than average this winter, up about 30 percent over the worse-than-average past winter.
“It means you can keep some gas in the truck, upgrade your equipment, maybe,” Fournier said.
At Sudbury Inn in Bethel, sales were also up, with more stays at the inn and more meals at its pub, bistro and dining room.
“I think the fact that we’ve had so much snow is a real, real bonus,” said co-owner Ali Smith. “We are eying some capital things we’re going to do. We’re going to actually do some room renovations this year, starting off in the spring. We’re hoping to do a little bit of work in our dining room as well. It’s good to have the additional revenue so you can actually spend some money on the infrastructure.”
It’s a bit early yet for a full winter-in-review — in many parts of Maine, it’s only spring according to the calendar — but businesses are so far reporting a healthy season.
Lodging stays were up in January over last year, according to the latest figures from the state.
Officials expect skier and snowmobile visits to be above average when those seasons end.
“You have a year like this one, particularly with the residents, anything you can screw a spark plug into is registered and out on the trails,” said Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association. “We’ve seen an awful lot of older sleds out there and ones that clearly hadn’t been out for a couple of years. That’s terrific.”
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