- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

DUNBARTON, N.H. (AP) — The Dunbarton Country Store is on the map, literally, for snowmobilers. A popular trail runs right by the gas pumps, but this winter, not many snowmobilers have fueled up.

“It’s been pretty quiet. Pretty quiet,” co-owner Sam Richard said.

A record-setting storm dumped more than 2 feet of snow along parts of the East Coast during the weekend, but Dunbarton, population about 2,100, got only a few inches. Parts of northern New Hampshire and more than half of Vermont got one-tenth of an inch or less.

On a normal winter weekend, about a third of Mr. Richard’s customers arrive by snowmobile — to pick up food and drinks, use the bathroom, rest and buy trail maps. But this year, the trail network is closed because there hasn’t been enough snow to groom, and the maps provided by snowmobile clubs go unsold.

“My mother’s going to be 85, and she’s never seen anything like this,” said Martin Beattie, owner of Marty’s 1st Stop grocery store and gas station in Danville, Vt., next to major snowmobile trails in the Northeast Kingdom.

It’s the same story in Maine and Vermont for snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and others who depend on snow and ice. Sled dog races have been canceled, and ice fishing derbies have been postponed.

The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers reported this week that most areas did not have enough snow for safe riding. A recorded trails report said limited snowmobiling was available at higher elevations but warned riders to “be prepared for bare patches of ground, lots of ice and exposed hazards at any moment.”

Downhill ski areas in all three states have been making snow and are thankful that even though the weekend snowstorm didn’t bring new snow to the slopes, 2 feet fell in Boston and New York, where many of the skiers live. It’s called the “snow-in-your-back-yard effect” and gets people thinking about skiing and snowboarding.

“It kind of put people back in the mood,” said Suzie Grimes, owner of the Stowehof Inn in Stowe, Vt. “It’s turned around.”

Skiers who make the trip should find snow on the slopes.

“Despite the weather being obviously less than ideal, the conditions have been surprisingly good,” said Heather Atwell at the Vermont Ski Areas Association.

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