As people in Virginia and Maryland braced for a major winter snowstorm on Friday, cross-country skiers and snowblower salesmen in the Capital Region were asking: Where is our snow?
Only 21.5 inches of snow have fallen in the region since early December, some 17.1 inches less than the normal snowfall of 38.6 inches by early February, according to the National Weather Service in Albany.
“Snowblowers aren’t moving and service is way down,” said Duane Leach, owner of All Seasons Equipment Inc. at 60 Freemans Bridge Road in Glenville.
Leach said he has had to cut the hours of the snowblower repairmen over the past month because of the lack of snow. He usually sells between 400 and 450 snowblowers each winter. This winter he still has 150 in stock.
Bob’s Trees in Galway has operated a cross-country skiing network on its property in recent years. A telephone message at Bob’s announced on Friday that the ski system is closed because of lack of snow.
And at the Saratoga Spa State Park, officials had to cancel Friday night’s candlelight snowshoe walk because of no snow and lots of ice.
Park Manager Michael Greenslade said the weekend’s Winterfest events at the park are still being held, including a snowshoe race on Sunday.
The cross-country ski system at the park is getting little or no use because the ski trails are covered with ice, he said.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed,” Greenslade said about the arrival of snow, possibly by mid-week.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Hugh Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.
He said that in 2007 only about 10 inches of snow had fallen in the region by early February, but after snowstorms on Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day the regional snow levels caught up.
He said a powerful polar stream of air is keeping the cold air in the region — it won’t get any warmer than 25 degrees today and Sunday — but forcing the snow south into Virginia, Washington and Maryland.
Last winter at this time 47.4 inches of snow had fallen on the Capital Region, Johnson said. But then only five more inches fell the rest of the winter.
But snow is in the forecast. On Tuesday and Wednesday the polar stream will be bringing snow this way.
“That’s our best opportunity for plowable snow,” Johnson said. He said it’s still unclear how much snow will fall then.
At Goldstock’s sporting goods at 90 Freemans Bridge Road in Glenville, cross-country skis and snowshoes, and associated equipment, are moving very slowly. But downhill skis, clothing and equipment continue to sell well.
That’s most likely because almost all alpine ski centers in the greater Capital Region have snowmaking equipment and the temperatures have been ideal for making snow.
“We have plenty of snow,” said Kate Michener of Maple Ski Ridge on Mariaville Road in Rotterdam. She said the ski center has snowmaking on 99 percent of its slopes.
“We have piles of snow that are 10 feet deep,” Michener said. She said the after-school skiing programs for local schools are running very successfully.
Geoff Searl, manager of Goldstock’s, said the store’s ski bus trips to Okemo Mountain in Vermont continue to be very successful. He said the buses ($57 for bus ride and ski ticket) have been nearly filled most weekends.
Highway departments throughout the region have been getting a break.
“The lack of plowable snowfall is definitely saving us money,” said Richard Kukuk, Clifton Park’s highway superintendent.
He said the town has saved between $20,000 and $30,000 on overtime costs this winter and another $40,000 in salt and sand costs. Clifton Park has 210 miles of roads within its boundaries.
“It’s nice. We can get some normal sleep,” Kukuk said. He said most winters he gets calls in the middle of the night from the Sheriff’s Department telling him the roads are slicking up with snow and the plows and sand trucks are needed.
Johnson of the weather service said the biggest winter storms ever to hit the Capital Region came in March.
On March 13, 1993, the region was hit with a 26-inch snowfall and on March 12, 1888, the Blizzard of ’88 dumped 47 inches of snow on Albany and more than 50 inches in places like Saratoga Springs.