CONCORD, N.H. – After a December that has felt more like spring than winter, the first major snowstorm of the season is about to hit the Northeast.
That's good news for New England ski resorts, many of which have been struggling to make snow amid temperatures that could push several cities to record warmth for the month. Through Sunday, for example, the average temperature in Concord was 39.4 degrees, or 12.1 degrees warmer than normal. The warmest December in Concord came in 1891, an average of 35.4 degrees.
"It's made it really hard for ski areas to even make snow, which has meant limited trails, trail counts, limited terrain for skiers," said Jessyca Keeler, executive director of Ski New Hampshire, which represents a number of resorts. "I think there has also been a lack of interest on the part of a lot people who would normally be out skiing."
Snow was to start falling Monday night with northern New York and much of Vermont expected to get 3 to 7 inches by midmorning Tuesday. Up to 12 inches was expected in parts of New Hampshire and Maine, with lesser amounts in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The snow was expected to turn into sleet and then freezing rain.
In Rhode Island, where there have been several days of record-high temperatures in recent weeks, cleanup could be easier, said Joe Bucci of the Department of Transportation.
"The pavement temperatures will be up, so it's less likely that the snow is going to stick quickly," Bucci said.
Crews still have to pretreat roads and will dip into some of the 50,000 tons of salt the agency has at the ready. The number includes a 20,000-ton "strategic salt reserve" created this year after the state and municipalities ran low last season when Rhode Island was walloped with its second snowiest winter on record.
In Connecticut, the Department of Transportation will use some new plow blades made of carbon fiber instead of steel. Commissioner James Redeker said the long-lasting blades are easier on the ground and are easier to lift.
The Grafton Inn in southern Vermont usually offers cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, sleigh rides and snow tubing but hasn't so far this winter because the ground is bare.
"All that's been put on hold but we're supposed to get snow tonight, and you know hope springs eternal," said assistant inn keeper Steven Griffiths.
It's even been too warm for the inn's outdoor center to make snow.
In Westbrook, Maine, Warren Knight said he'd celebrate the snow "when I finally see the white stuff coming down." Knight is a member of the family that owns Smiling Hill Farm, which has more than 12 miles of cross-country skiing trails and has been anxiously awaiting the winter weather.
Knight said the trails would need about six inches of snow for skiing to get going.
In New Hampshire, Chris Gamache, who heads the state Bureau of Trails, said the snow and lower temperatures could make for some good riding conditions by this weekend.
"Everyone's excited and looking forward to another good riding season right now, and the only thing we've been missing is anything resembling whiteness," he said.