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Snow drought a hindrance for some, but not all

February 17, 2010
LAKES REGION — With more grass than snow visible on the ground throughout the Lakes Region until Tuesday's storm, some winter-weather events are being cancelled or postponed, but for the most part, businesses haven't felt the heat.

In Laconia, the World Championship Sled Dog Derby was postponed because of the heavy rains that melted much of the snow that had accumulated over December and January. In Franklin, the Webster Lake Fishing Derby was cancelled because of fears that the ice wasn't thick enough to safely hold the annual event.

But businesses that cater to winter-loving tourists and locals are holding up well and say that with the unpredictability of New Hampshire's snow season, there's still plenty of time for the weather to make or break the season.

John Whalley, manager of HK Powersports in Tilton, said customers are still hoping for snow and are still buying sleds. He attributed much of the winter season's thriving business to good sales in the fall preseason.

"Coming off two good snow years, people definitely have confidence in Mother Nature," he said.

Still, Whalley admitted that lack of snowmobile and ATV activity recently has put a slight damper on one part of their business.

"We've seen some slowdown in service work," he said.

At Gunstock in Gilford, Marketing Director Bill Quigley said last week that snow on the ground in Massachusetts from recent southern storms would mean good business this week, the state's school vacation week. When Massachusetts residents see snow in their backyards, he said, they're much more inclined to head to New Hampshire's ski areas.

"All I need is for one car to slide of (Route) 128 and Channel 7 to cover it," Quigley said. "If there's no snow in Boston, no one believes (there's snow here)."

Quigley said that although the day of rain in early February "kind of put a damper on things," it only took the resort a couple days to recover, and right now there's only one trail closed.

Like HKPowersports, Gunstock did well early in the season because of last winter's excessive snowfall. Quigley said season pass sales were high, and the slopes were busy throughout December and early February. While visits had slowed down a bit since Martin Luther King Day, Quigley said he expected this week and next to be big weeks for Gunstock, with next week being New Hampshire schools' winter vacation.

"There's nothing we sell that anybody needs," Quigley said, "(but) people still want to play with their families."

As for the weather's affect on annual events, it's par for the course. Jim Lyman, president of the Lakes Region Sled Dog Club, which manages the Sled Dog Derby, said this isn't the first time the derby has been postponed because of lack of snow, and it's been cancelled a few times as well.

With events that rely on very specific weather conditions, cancellations are more of a disappointment than a surprise. In Franklin, Webster Lake Fishing Derby Chairman Jeff Hinds said in a statement that while he knew people would be unhappy with the decision to cancel the derby, safety is paramount.

"I have spoken with Franklin Fire Department officials, gotten ice thickness updates from long-time Webster Lake ice fishermen and personally examined ice conditions on the lake," Hinds said. "I believe much of the ice on Webster Lake is inadequate and potentially unsafe for fishermen and their families."

The fishing derby will have to wait until next year, but the Sled Dog Derby still has a chance in 2010. A "snow date" was set for March 5, 6 and 7, and Lyman said that by the end of next week the club will decided whether there's enough snow on the ground or in the forecast to keep that date. He said the trails need eight inches to a foot of snow.

In the past, the club has trucked in snow that was piled up throughout the region to pack onto the race trails.

"At least (then) there was snow to bring in from parking lots," Lyman said. "There's just no snow anywhere."

Lyman said Monday that he was encouraged by Tuesday's forecasted snow, but said unless there's another decent storm, that alone probably wouldn't be enough to hold the race.

"We'll have no choice but to cancel," he said, adding that the club would start planning to make next year's race "bigger and better."

But for now, Lyman is still holding out hope that a March derby is in the forecast.

"Just pray for snow," he said.

Martin Lord Osman
Brewster Academy
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