MONTPELIER, Vt. – Some Northeasterners are beginning to wonder if a white Christmas may just be a dream, and business owners who rely on snow are starting to worry if warm weather could lead to a nightmare winter.
In Maine, an outdoor sports business owner says he's anxious. And in Vermont, ski areas are making snow but wishing Mother Nature would chip in.
Buffalo, New York, already has broken a record this year: Previously, the latest the city had seen measurable snow was Dec. 3. As of Tuesday, it had beaten it by five days.
Burlington, Vermont, could follow. Its current record for having no more than an inch of snow is Dec. 21, set in 1948, said Eric Evenson, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Burlington had received two-tenths of an inch as of Tuesday, well shy of the normal snow to date of 8.7 inches, Evenson said.
Ski resorts have been busy making snow, but a spokeswoman for the Vermont Ski Areas Association said they need it to fall in cities to the south to get people in the mood for skiing and snowboarding.
"Mother Nature dropping snow is probably the best marketing tool we can ask for," said the group's Sarah Wojcik.
Snowmobiling businesses, a big economic driver in remote areas of New England and New York, also are apprehensive.
Neil McGovern, town supervisor and owner of a lodge and restaurant in the Adirondack town of Speculator, New York, said, "For most of the central Adirondacks, snowmobiling is the most important winter business," accounting for 60 percent of visitors.
Vermont's trails open next week, and they are brown and bare. Often, the snow isn't deep enough for snowmobilers until after Christmas, but the warm trend threatens that.
"It makes us a little bit anxious, but we're not panicked yet," said Matt Polstein from New England Outdoors, which rents 26 snowmobiles and grooms 110 miles of trails in Maine's Mount Katahdin region.
In neighboring New Hampshire, John Berry sounded a bit more alarmed.
"To ensure a great snowmobiling season you need to have frozen ground to begin with, and with this warm weather, the ground is far from anywhere near being frozen, so that's the first biggest concern," said the trail administrator of the Blow-Me-Down Snowriders Club, which maintains about 56 miles of trails that wind through the Connecticut River valley communities of Cornish and Plainfield.
Berry noted the outlook is dim.
The forecast for Montpelier called for a warming trend toward the upper 40s by this weekend, and there's no snow in the long-range forecast, which goes out two weeks.
David Johnson, who works in financial services in Boston, said he expected this winter would not match the record 110.6 inches the city got last winter.
"I have no grounding for that, it's just a feeling," Johnson said.
Charles Blakeman, a 25-year-old college student and product promoter, was more fatalistic.
"There's a lack of snow so far, which just means that we're going to get hit harder later on," he said as he waited for a train at Boston's South Station. He said he is an avid snowboarder, so he doesn't mind some snow "as long as it stays in Vermont and New Hampshire."