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Nation & World

It's Been A Brutal Season For Winter Tourism In The Northeast

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right, if you like taking a winter vacation in the Northeast, this has been one awful year. There have been polar cold snaps and blizzards followed quickly by rainstorms. Blizzards, sure, but an overall lack of snow has been so severe from New York to Maine, some ski resorts have simply closed. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports from the Adirondack Mountains of New York.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: This is Long Lake, a tiny village where tourism is it. There's no other game in town. Hoss's is a country store that caters to the skiers and snowmobile riders. Today, the parking lot is empty. It's actually raining outside.

JULES PIERCE: It's affected us hugely. I mean, when there's no snow, there's no snowmobiling. It's a little hard to have a winter carnival when there's no snow.

MANN: Jules Pierce is part of the family that's run Hoss's for decades. Social service agencies in the region say they've seen a lot more seasonal workers laid off. Pierce shrugs and says sure, they've had to let people go.

PIERCE: Yeah, the hours go down, and the staff goes down.

MANN: Up the highway, I stop at the Adirondack Hotel. It's a local landmark, and on typical winter weekends, there would be a traffic jam of snowmobiles. Today, there are two sleds parked in a puddle. Waitress Alexandra Harris is sitting at the bar with nothing to do.

ALEXANDRA HARRIS: Well, this time last year, there would've been - what? - 100 people in this place already.

MANN: It's coming up on lunchtime, and it's pretty empty.

HARRIS: Yeah, I've had two people, and they had soup.

MANN: So there's been rain and warm weather. That's messed up ice fishermen and outdoor hockey. But there have also been brutal cold snaps, so polar that they drove tourists away. During the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival parade this month, temperatures suddenly plunged to 15 degrees below zero. Andy Flynn was the parade announcer.

ANDY FLYNN: We'll just ask, you know, people to hug their neighbor and stay warm. But yeah, I noticed that the crowds aren't as thick...

MANN: Yeah, definitely.

FLYNN: ...As normal.

MANN: Meanwhile, many ski resorts in the East have notched less than half as much snow as they see in a normal year. Some have stayed closed. Others have seen their biggest holiday weekends rained out. This is Oak Mountain, a small downhill ski area in the southern Adirondacks, where Matt O'Brien is the owner.

MATT O'BRIEN: December, November, even some into January, we didn't have the cold temps to make snow. So I mean, a lot of us lost December, lost Christmas week. It's a tough - it hurts.

MANN: Forecasters say the big culprit this winter has been El Nino. The weather pattern has pushed warm weather into the East. Business owners here say they don't care what's causing it. They just want it to end. And sometimes March is the best month in the East for skiing, so fingers crossed. For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in New York's Adirondack Mountains. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.