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Maine's Snow-Dependent Businesses Booming as Totals Mount

Light snow continued to fall today, adding to the record totals on the ground in some parts of the state. The blizzard on Jan. 27, and the multiple storms that have followed, are straining the snow removal budgets of municipalities throughout Maine. But businesses and industries that count on getting lots of the white stuff are giddy, and also a little bit weary.

"You know, I'm having a hard time remembering the last time it wasn't snowing," says. Bob Meyers. Not that Meyers is complaining or anything - he runs the Maine Snowmobile Association, a coalition of clubs, individuals and businesses that advocate for the sport and care for the state's more than 14,000 miles of trails.

"It's made for a terrific winter," Meyers says. "Everything we've been seeing or hearing just tells us there are piles of people out there."

Which Meyers says is great news for sled dealers, service centers and all the inns and restaurants that cater to tired and hungry riders. Hancock and Washington Counties have received some of the largest snowfall totals in the state. Meyers says that's created especially prime conditions on the Downeast Sunrise Trail from Ellsworth to Dennysville.

All the storms, he says, coming in rapid succession have left the state's snowmobile clubs scrambling to keep trails groomed. "A lot of times with heavy snow like this, signs get buried or get tipped over," he says. "There's brush hanging out over the trail."

The heavy snowfall totals are also posing some challenges for cross country ski areas. In Waterville, the city's Parks and Recreation Department manages the Quarry Road Recreation Area, which has six miles of groomed trails. Besides keeping the trails up, the city has to do large amounts of plowing, shoveling and scraping after each storm.

But Matt Skehan, who heads the Parks and Rec department, says the city is saving money in another area. "We're not having to make too much snow. Typically, over the last few years, we've spent between $20,000 and $30,000 to make snow."

So far this winter, the city has only had to spend between $5,000 and $10,000. Across the Kennebec River, meantime, in Winslow, Dana Michaud's company is cranking. He's president of Michaud's Trailers, which sells and services snow plows.

"We were starting to quiet down, until we got that first big snowstorm," Michaud says. Since then, Michaud says he's been flooded with last minute service orders and requests for parts. "People - they could have something wrong with their plow for three weeks, but they don't want to put it on to bring it in to get it fixed."

The storms, of course, have also been great news for people with plowing and sanding businesses. Emery Pelletier clears the lots of some trucking companies in Portland. He also does residential plowing in Falmouth, where his company, C&E Earthworks, is based.

"Contracts I have by the storm  and I have hourly. So by the storm has been excellent, and by the hour has been fantastic," he says.

Earlier this winter, Pelletier says the financial picture looked somewhat uncertain, after a couple transmissions failed on him. But then, it started snowing and it hasn't stopped.