The storm that dumped close to 2 feet of snow in parts of southern Maine on Wednesday is expected to bring much-needed business to Maine’s winter sports venues.

The Maine Office of Tourism launched an ad campaign Thursday to tout the fresh snowfall, and the word will be spread on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, ski area representatives say.

It’s about time.

After little snow in the early weeks of winter, a storm coming right before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend is good news for downhill ski areas, snowmobile rental outfits and cross-country ski centers.

“Everyone is out with smiles on,” said Melissa Rock, spokeswoman for Shawnee Peak in Bridgton. “Normally, we’ve had four to five storms by this time. We’ve only had two or three this winter.”

When there isn’t much snow, it’s tough to entice people from urban areas in the south up to the mountains. That’s particularly true for snowmobile businesses and Nordic ski areas, which depend on natural snow.

Snowmobiling pumps about $330 million a year into the Maine economy, and skiing about $300 million, according to the Maine Office of Tourism.

It takes a snowfall of more than 6 inches to trigger the office’s radio and online advertising, said Pat Eltman, director of the tourism office.

Steve Lyons, the research and marketing director for the office, said, “People in our primary market area of Boston like to go participate in outdoor activities and winter sports. When we get large snowfall up here, it helps encourage them to come here rather than other New England states.”

Those visitors are needed, especially at snowmobile rental shops, which haven’t had much business this season because of the sparse snowfall.

“We had nothing. It was down to the rocks. We were hurting really bad,” said Lisa Freda, owner of Sun Valley Sports snowmobile rentals in Bethel.

And at Northeast Snowmobile Rentals in Fryeburg, shop owner Terry MacGillivray said the storm was a gift. His business opened for the season on Thursday. “We had calls as soon as it started to snow,” he said.

At the Beech Hill X-C Ski and Snowshoe Center in Wayne, the “open” sign went up after 10 inches covered the trails Wednesday.

“We were open for a few days in December and everything was great. Then we had 60-degree temperatures and it seems like the snow just disappeared,” said owner Dave Petell.

At Play It Again Sports in Portland, business didn’t improve, but it did shift on Thursday from hockey sales to ski and snowshoe sales, said owner Jeff Rioux.

“Hockey really isn’t impacted by the weather. People can play indoors,” Rioux said.

Farther north, in the higher mountains of Maine, the season has been good — as good as last year, said Ethan Austin at Sugarloaf Mountain Resort.

Austin said that with the advent of social media like Facebook and Twitter, getting the word out about manmade snow conditions in the mountains is easy. And he said the snowfall before this three-day holiday weekend will bump up business at Maine’s big ski areas.

“It’s relatively busy out there for a Thursday,” he said. “In general, the fact Boston and Portland got more than a foot of snow is very good for business.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]

 


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