Holiday weather boon for some, bust for others

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“With over 30 inches of snow on the ground, a few hours of warm weather is not a concern,” said Chris Farmer, the general manager of Saddleback Ski Area near Rangeley.

Maine’s notorious, if not fickle, winter weather this year has given plenty of snow to some parts of the state dependent on winter tourism and left others hoping for more.

Farmer said Saddleback had all of its terrain open to ski and snowboard riding and that ongoing snowmaking was adding to what was a very solid early season base.

“The mountain has an enormous base of snow that will easily endure a forecast Christmas Eve warm-up,” Farmer said.

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In Carrabassett Valley, the Sugarloaf ski resort was also touting its heavy base and a wide variety of open terrain, including some large portions of the resort that don’t usually open until later in the winter or spring.

But Lost Valley Ski Area in Auburn, which had hoped to open for the season Monday, said the weather had simply not cooperated with snowmaking efforts and, with rain in the forecast, the resort would have to push its opening back until after Christmas.

Other ski areas in Western Maine, including Shawnee Peak in Bridgton, Mt. Abram in Greenwood and Sunday River in Newry, were sticking to their regular schedules, although Shawnee Peak and Mt. Abram traditionally are closed on Christmas Day.

As for Santa’s sleigh ride into Maine on Christmas Eve, National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Mignon predicted the big guy might need an umbrella even in far northern Aroostook County.

“There’s going to be a steady, soaking rain with possibly heavy winds at times while Santa is in transit,” Mignon, based in Caribou, told the Bangor Daily News. “It’s going to be winding down Christmas morning.”

The wind is expected to gust up to 30 mph along the coast. Temperatures will be rising into the mid-50s along the coast and into the mid-40s even in the northern part of the state.

The combination of heavy rain along with possible snowmelt and warm temperatures creates the potential for flooding, according to the forecast posted on the weather service’s website.

The anticipated strong winds may cause downed trees and power outages, especially Down East, the forecast stated. Large waves could cause minor coastal flooding around high tide.

The National Weather Service office in Gray predicted similar weather in Southern Maine, with a cold front expected to move in Friday and return temperatures throughout the state to normal, based on the most recent forecasts.

Most of Maine’s ski resorts will resume snowmaking as temperatures warrant it, and many should remain in good condition despite a December thaw and deluge, predicted Greg Sweetser, the executive director of the Ski Maine, a trade association that represents the state’s 19 ski areas.

“Generally, the outlook is that we have had excellent early season snowmaking temperatures, and nearly all of the ski areas have been able to put down a base of man-made snow that will sustain this Christmas storm,” Sweetser said in an email Monday.

Christmas usually marks the start of the Maine ski industry’s busy season, and the industry is an important one to the state’s tourism business, contributing an estimated $300 million a year to the state’s economy.

Cross-country skiers and a few of the state’s smaller ski areas that depend more on natural snow are still anxiously awaiting more, Sweetser said.

“There are a few community areas that do not make snow, as is the case with the Nordic centers, so they will be watching the weather reports, eagerly awaiting the next snowfall,” Sweetser said.

Likewise, snowmobile enthusiasts are also hoping for colder temperatures and more snow. Snowmobiling contributes about $350 million a year to the state’s economy in a good season, 

sthistle@sunjournal.com

Judy Harrison of the Bangor Daily News contributed to this report.

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