Snowboards waiting to hit the mountain at Lost Valley in Auburn.
As the storm was brewing Wednesday over the upper Ohio Valley, friends Cassie Gauthier and Nichole Brooks brewed up their own plan: go skiing. They were at Lost Valley in Auburn at 10:00 a.m. sharp, says Gauthier, to take advantage of the fresh powder. "And then to be out on the mountain when it's coming down is amazing."
Lost Valley co-owner Connie King says before this storm, Lost Valley was making snow like crazy while eyeing snowfalls up north with envy. Needless to say, she's ecstatic about the snow, especially given that it's school vacation. "This is a very important time and this snow today is a bonus because it will bring everybody out."
She expects more crowds on Friday - she says the day of a windy storm like this tends to draw out just the diehards, like snowboarder Michael Nazaroff. He raved about the conditions - despite reports that winds today were 25 to 35 miles per hour, with gusts into the 50s.
"I was riding the lifts and I was surprised, they weren't shaking at all or anything," he says. "We had a few gusts of wind, but nothing too bad."
But Mother Nature created complications for other ski areas, like Rangeley's Saddleback Mountain, which closed all lifts for the day. Marketing Director JoAnne Taylor says the wind was just blowing too hard.
"And it would not be safe for us to put people on those lifts and operate them," she says. "In fact, with the high winds that we're experiencing, we don't even advise that people hike up on the mountain because there are limbs and things that are being blown off trees."
Sugarloaf and Sunday River each had to put a lift or two on wind hold, but the new snow also allowed them to open more trails. The powder also provided the needed base to set snowmobile season in full swing, says David Vavro. He's the store manager for Northwoods Outfitters in Greenville.
"This is big for us getting this now," he says. "So it can change the whole season up here for us, especially getting all the rain and stuff before - this is actually going to help all the businesses up here."
Vavro cautioned that while the snow is good right now, the ice on many lakes and ponds isn't, so they recommend going out with a guide who knows where it's safe.
And speaking of keeping things safe, snow plows were out in full force. Mitch Lovering was clearing a parking lot in Lewiston around noon - and drinking his sixth cup of coffee.
"I've been up - I went out around three, but we won't be done 'til Friday night," Lovering says. "We've got some big accounts - a hospital and stuff like that - we've gotta keep going around and around, and it will be at least Friday night before we're done."
Lovering is co-owner of Lawn Guard, a lawn and garden service. But he says winter plowing is where the money's at. His company has 10 trucks and four loaders, and he says so far, this ,year is looking a lot better than last.
Photos by Patty Wight.