Workers at LST Landscaping prepare Wednesday for the winter’s first snowstorm, expected to hit Maine late Thursday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Winter-dependent businesses in much of Maine are eagerly anticipating the season’s first snowstorm after a mild start and a paucity of snow statewide. 

A winter storm from late Thursday to Sunday is expected to dump over a foot of snow in some parts of the state, though warmer temperatures could bring a mix of snow and rain to Portland and southern Maine. The conditions would be a welcome change for many hardware stores, snow removal companies and ski trails, slopes and shops that rely on the white stuff.

Maine has received only a fraction of the snow it usually has by this time of year. Portland, for example, has gotten only a trace, compared to the 6 inches typical of mid-December. Bangor, which would usually have around 9 inches, has had 1 inch.

Across southern Maine, local hardware stores stocked up weeks ago with shovels, sand, salt and ice melt. But with no snow or ice to tackle, the goods have stayed put. 

Chris Langlois, owner of Standish Hardware, had to invest in his winter inventory months ago, so a late start to the cold-weather season has been difficult. 

“We’re all geared up and ready to go and hardly any of it has moved,” he said. “We’re just not selling the stuff we need to be selling.” 


Langlois hopes that the weekend storm will mean more business, but he’s not counting yet on a rush before the first flakes. 

Usually, he said, customers don’t come in until the snow has started accumulating. Then they can’t find the shovel they used last year, or realize they forgot to replenish the salt. 

“People don’t buy that stuff until they need it,” agreed Jon Dupuis, owner of Dupuis Hardware in Biddeford.

Dupuis also is ready for snow – he’s not necessarily a fan, but it’s good for business. 

“The shovels haven’t exactly started flying off the shelves,” he said. 

But unlike in Standish, where several inches of snowfall are expected, Biddeford and the southern coastline are more likely to see freezing rain and slush. 


A slow December isn’t a surprise, Dupuis said.

“It usually takes that first good snow to get those things moving,” he said.


At 207 Small Engine Repair in Arundel, the team has been working on 25 to 30 snowblowers a day.

People who hadn’t started their machines have been scurrying quite a bit to get things looked at” before the snow, said Teresa Houle, co-owner. 

The shop starts taking snowblowers in early October in preparation for early winter snowfall. The business sees a flurry of activity before the first storm, she said, and now is preparing for more customers soon.


“Typically with snowstorms, that’s when machines break down,” Houle said. “We always work our schedule so we can take calls and get machines in.”

For some, the delayed start to winter has been welcome.

Stephen Perry, president of LST Landscaping in Portland, said the transition from the fall season to winter is tough, so any delay is helpful.

Perry has used the extra time to ready equipment and get some of it back up and running after sitting idle. The wait has helped save fuel costs. And so far, he says, the landscapers haven’t had to lay down much salt, which, like many other products, has increased in price.

“Usually, it’s a little busier at this time … (but) if you talk to any contractor, they like to think if they could get to the middle of December before they have to send out the troops, it’s already been a win for them.” 



But Perry is prepared for the lull to end soon. 

“We’re two days away from whatever’s going to happen,” he said. “We’re in a full onslaught of preparation. It’s better to be prepared and not have to use it.”

Mechanic Geno Orrino wheels a snowblower through the garage at 207 Small Engine Repair in Arundel on Wednesday. Repairs had been completed and he was returning the machine to a customer. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Rick Fritz, owner of Maine Snow Removal in Bridgton, said it’s been business as usual.

He’s done a bit of scraping, sanding and salting for his commercial accounts, but the residential accounts haven’t needed any service, which is typical for the pre-Christmas period.

That hasn’t been a bad thing. Inflation has taken a toll and Fritz said he was able to keep prices steady this year, but “I don’t know if I can do it another year if fuel prices don’t smarten up,” he said. 

He is expecting that business will pick up in a few days. Bridgton is expecting nearly a foot of snow. 


“We’re truly ready for whatever is coming,” he said.

Ski-based businesses also are ready to welcome the snow. Some just might have to wait longer than others.

December has been a bust for cross-country skiing at Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook for at least a few years, said John Alexander, who manages accounts payable for the farm. 

It’s been too mild for any substantial snow accumulation, and the farm needs at least 6 inches in order to groom its recreational trails. 

“We can’t rely on December anymore for enough snowpack for outdoor activities,” he said. 

Luckily, cross-country skiing isn’t the primary revenue source for the farm. But Alexander said the extra money does help after the barnyard closes for the season. 



In Bethel, however, Anne Carter, owner of Carter’s Cross Country Ski Center, is ready and excited for the winter storm, which is expected to bring up to a foot of much-needed snow. The storm means she can open the trails before Christmas vacation, which she said is always the goal but isn’t always possible.

“This is considered early snow for us,” she said. “Anything that comes before Christmas is really, really good.”

Last year the area didn’t get as much snow as usual, so Carter said they had to find creative ways to use the snow and keep the trails groomed.

Stephen Perry, the president of LST Landscaping, stands in front of one of the company’s road salt piles on Wednesday. Perry said his crew has been prepping for days in advance of this week’s storm. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The first storm of the year really kicks things off.

“It helps to get people really in the mood. It gets people thinking, ‘I better get my skis, get my gear,'” she said.


For people working the slopes rather than the trails, the snow also is welcome, even if not in short supply. 

Several of the state’s mountains were able to open for downhill skiing before Thanksgiving, and more since then, said Dirk Gouwens, director of Ski Maine Association, the nonprofit trade group representing the Maine Alpine and Nordic skiing industry.

This storm should be the push needed to get everyone open by Christmas week, he said. 

“We love to have snow, (but) it’s more important to have cold weather because they can make as much snow as they need,” Gouwens said. But still, “natural snow helps the whole thing, it changes everyone’s attitude. It makes it a winter wonderland kind of place.” 

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