DUNBARTON, N.H. — 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," said co-owner Sam Richard.
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 Richard's customers arrive by snowmobile — to pick up food and drinks, use the bathroom, rest and buy trail maps. But this winter, the trail network is closed because there hasn't been enough snow to groom, and the maps provided by two local snowmobile clubs go unsold.
"Normally, we are on the phone begging them for more maps," Richard said. "This year, they are not one of our big sellers."
Debbie and Ron Ouellette of Goffstown snowmobiled to the store on Monday, enticed by the snow the day before. It was their third ride of the season compared to maybe a dozen in a normal winter, he said.
"It's fairly bumpy," Ron Ouellette said. "We definitely need another snowstorm."
Many trails closed
The Ouellettes had wanted to ride farther north, in the White Mountains near Lincoln, but called ahead and were told to forget it.
"Half the trails are closed," he said.
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.
Snowmobilers have been scarce at Marty's 1st Stop grocery store and gas station in Danville, Vt., next to major snowmobile trails in the Northeast Kingdom.
"On a good weekend we're apt to have 1,000 snow machines through our yard," said owner Martin Beattie. This year he hasn't seen any.
"I have a snow machine and I haven't started it," he said.
Beattie said the snowmobile, ski and tourism business has been "nonexistent" this season.
"My mother's going to be 85 and she's never seen anything like this," Beattie said.
The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers reported Wednesday 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."
The report posted by New Hampshire's Bureau of Trails lists similar conditions and offers some advice: "All together now, perform a Snow Dance!"
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.
Vermont's tourism business wasn't as big a washout as might have been expected, because many visitors made their reservations long ago came anyway.
"They were able to ski, and if they were rained out they went out and shopped and went out to dinner," said Tim Dow, general manager of the Mountaineer Inn at Stowe.
In Maine, the weather led to anxious moments even in far-northern Aroostook County, where more than 250 athletes are participating in this month's 2006 Biathlon Junior World Championships.
At the National Toboggan Championships in Camden, Maine, temperatures in the mid-40s melted ice on the 400-foot chute and created puddles. Competitors ended their runs with a blast of water, much like a log flume at an amusement park.
"January wasn't very kind to us," said Nicole Nason at Lost Valley ski area in Auburn, Maine. But the area was still operating, unlike some smaller ski mountains.
As of Wednesday, three of the 16 ski areas in the Ski Maine trade group were closed. Those still open have spent up to 20 percent more than normal to keep snow guns running, said Executive Director Greg Sweetser.
Some lakes and ponds were still not totally iced over — including Sebago Lake, the second-largest in Maine. The Sebago Lake Rotary DerbyFest will go on as scheduled Feb. 24-26, but with a contingency plan that would allow entrants to fish in any ice-covered Maine waters, said Tom Noonan, the event's director.
"There are some areas where the ice is inadequate," he said. "By opening it up statewide, it takes the pressure off the lake."
Fish derby delayed
New Hampshire's Great Rotary Ice Fishing Derby, the biggest ice-fishing competition in the state, is on for this weekend, after a week's delay to let the ice thicken. Parts of Lake Winnipesaukee still are unfrozen.
Tourism is big business in all three states, and dips in the weather often cause dips in tax revenue.
New Hampshire Revenue Commissioner Phil Blatsos said the state's meals and rooms tax was $2.7 million behind at the end of January. But he said high fuel prices crimped revenues starting in August.
He suspects there will be a snowless impact, but in New Hampshire, and in Maine, the figures that might show any shortfalls will not be reported until later this month.
Back in Dunbarton, Fred Mullen, one of the idle trail groomers for the Bow Pioneers Snowmobile Club, watched a couple of snowmobilers ride Monday on a few inches of fresh snow.
"They'll be lucky to get back," he said. "It's melting fast."
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.