EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 20, 2008

Skiers, snowshoers give thumbs-up to the snow

By John Basilesco , Staff Writer

Two winters ago, some members of the Derry Pathfinders Snowmobile Club didn't even register their vehicles because so little snow fell.

This winter's white out - including a record-setting December - turned that apathy into a pronounced enthusiasm for the sport, boosting club membership by 50 or 60, said President Phil Bruno.

"We're up over 300 members, the most ever," he said. "For the past two winters, we haven't had much local snowmobiling. This is like a treat, getting snow this early in the season."

To date, 67 inches have fallen in Concord, compared to only 2.7 inches for the same period last winter, according to Art Lester, a meteorological technician for the National Weather Service in Maine.

While some people grumble about all the snow, snowmobilers and others who enjoy snow sports welcome it. Those with winter sport-related businesses aren't complaining either.

Business is booming at McIntyre Ski Area in Manchester, general manager Andrew Vachon said.

With all of the snow, the slopes opened more than a month earlier than last season for skiers, snowboarders and snowtubers.

"Even though McIntyre has snow-making equipment, the old rule of thumb is, if it's not snowing in their backyard, they're not going to go skiing," Vachon said. "But it started snowing right around the first week of December, and it's been a great year here."

America's Stonehenge in Salem is also seeing a great year for its "candlelight snowshoeing," held Saturday nights during the winter.

The hike along a trail with flaming bamboo torches now sells out regularly. Because the treks have become so popular, Stonehenge's owners scheduled an additional walk for tonight, under a full moon.

The nighttime treks, which include hot chocolate and cookies, run from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Snowshoes are included in the fee, $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. There's also daytime snowshoeing, seven days a week.

"Mother Nature has been very accommodating this year," said Pat Stone, an owner of America's Stonehenge. "For the past few winters, there really hasn't been much snow, and the turnout has been low. Last year, we hardly had any snowshoers because of the lack of snow. This is a nice surprise for us."

Winter sport lovers like Curtis Springer of Danville will take advantage of the good conditions for as long as they can. The chairman of the Danville Forestry Committee organized a 10 a.m. walk today in the Town Forest.



Though today Springer will strap on his snowshoes, yesterday he spent the afternoon cross-country skiing in town.

"I love the fresh air and exercise," the 52-year-old said. He started skiing 35 years ago, as a student at Dartmouth College.

Anyone interested in participating in the walk is asked to bring their cross-country skis or snowshoes. It's also OK to just walk