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Winter Fades to White: End-of-Season Snow Storm Forecast to Leave 12 Inches

  • Loulou Voelkel, 10, of Norwich, skis at Dartmouth Skiway in Lyme Center yesterday. Forecasters are predicting 8-12 inches of snow locally from today’s storm, giving a late season boost to ski areas on the last day of winter. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Loulou Voelkel, 10, of Norwich, skis at Dartmouth Skiway in Lyme Center yesterday. Forecasters are predicting 8-12 inches of snow locally from today’s storm, giving a late season boost to ski areas on the last day of winter. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Purchase photo reprints »

  • Liam Rorke of Hanover, 7, laughs while looking up at his dad, Chris Rorke, after taking a spill while learning to ski with his brother, Danny Rorke, 12, at Dartmouth Skiway, in Lyme yesterday. It was the boys’ first time skiing. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Liam Rorke of Hanover, 7, laughs while looking up at his dad, Chris Rorke, after taking a spill while learning to ski with his brother, Danny Rorke, 12, at Dartmouth Skiway, in Lyme yesterday. It was the boys’ first time skiing. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Loulou Voelkel, 10, of Norwich, skis at Dartmouth Skiway in Lyme Center yesterday. Forecasters are predicting 8-12 inches of snow locally from today’s storm, giving a late season boost to ski areas on the last day of winter. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Liam Rorke of Hanover, 7, laughs while looking up at his dad, Chris Rorke, after taking a spill while learning to ski with his brother, Danny Rorke, 12, at Dartmouth Skiway, in Lyme yesterday. It was the boys’ first time skiing. (Valley News - Libby March)

Lyme — Larry Hunt traveled with his family from Mattapoisett, Mass., to the Dartmouth Skiway for a two-day vacation. Now he’s hoping that a surprise late winter storm will drop enough snow on the region to trap his family in the Upper Valley.

Hunt, his wife Lisa Shaw and their three children drove the nearly 200 mile to Lyme yester day morning and plan to leave tonight — but Hunt said he’d be happy to see the forecasted 12 inches of snow clog the highways.

“It would be a good reason to call in (to) work,” Hunt said. “We love weather. We’re the silly people who get excited for a snow storm. It’s an adventure. It’s a change.”

A winter storm could drop eight to 12 inches on the Lebanon area today, and areas farther north, like Randolph, could see as much as 12 to 14 inches of snow. Snow precipitation was forecast to begin around midnight and to be a “long duration event,” continuing through tonight and into Wednesday morning before tapering off Wednesday, said Kimberly McMahon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Burlington.

The snow is expected to be a heavy, wet mixture and be moderate to heavy throughout the day, but it could lighten up in the early afternoon for a few hours, McMahon said.

Temperatures throughout the day are expected to be in the low to mid 30s. Around 3 or 4 p.m., temperatures will likely reach the daily high, which could cause rain to mix with snow. No freezing rain is expected, but as the temperatures drop, the wet ground could turn into ice, McMahon said.

Wind speeds will likely be 15 to 20 mph, with wind gusts as strong as 30 to 35 mph.

While tomorrow is officially the first day of spring, New England often sees snow in March. In March 2011, Burlington saw 29.3 inches and in 2001, March brought 47.6 inches.

Commuters often dread snow and the New Hampshire State Police warned yesterday that the safest place to be during a winter storm is at home, but ski mountain operators and maple sugar farmers — along with school age kids, naturally — welcome the white blanket.

Diana Wright owns Winter Ridge Farm with her husband Steve Hoffman, and together they tap 140 trees. Wright looks forward to the snow because it helps keep the ground colder longer.

The perfect climate for a sap run is when it reaches 30 to 40 degrees during the day and drops into the 20s at night. If the temperatures get too warm, trees can start to bud, which is a death knell for sap because it begins to change flavors, Wright said.

If the ground is bare, it can warm too quickly, so a layer of snow helps prolong the season. Even without the snow, Wright said this season has been “pretty good,” especially compared to last year when the temperatures rose quickly, the trees stopped running sap early and the syrup count was low.

It helps that yesterday there was still five to six inches of snow in the hills of Winter Ridge Farm in Thetford.

At Mount Sunapee, snow is the best — and cheapest — marketing tool.

“We’re happy to get the snow because it reenforces in people’s minds that it’s still winter,” said Bruce McCloy, director of marketing at Mount Sunapee.

Mount Sunapee has 54 of 66 trails open and most skiers know that even when it’s not snowing, they can find snow on the mountain until April. But there’s always a percentage of Bostonians who need a gentle reminder that they can still ski in Vermont and New Hampshire. McCloy said he lives by the saying, “an inch of snow in Boston is worth 12 inches in the mountains.”

Mount Sunapee is scheduled to remain open until April 7, and if the mountain receives the 14 inches that it’s expecting, then the mountain could open up its remaining 12 trails.

Most ski resorts saw their business falloff during last year’s mild winter, when less than 38 inches of snow fell in Burlington, Vt., compared to the prior year when the city saw 128 inches.

But despite this week’s expected snow, McCloy said he doesn’t expect the resort to extend operation past it’s planned April 7 closing.

“We could have every trail open and sunny skies, but we can’t draw enough people because their minds are focused on other things like spring sports, gardening, golfing,” McCloy said.

Inside the main lobby of the Dartmouth Skiway yesterday was a whiteboard that announced, “Today: 38 degrees, partly cloud. Tomorrow: 36 degrees, snow.”

Ben Craig, director of the snow sports school at the skiway, also welcomes the snow. He shared McCloy’s opinion that snow at the skiway is important, but more important is the snow in skiers backyards that reminds them that it’s still winter.

During the weekend, the skiway had about a dozen of its 30 trails open. But if Lyme gets a foot of snow, all 30 trails could reopen, Craig said.

“Spring does not start until later this week,” Craig said. “You live in New England, it’s going to snow, it’s going to be cold. Come out and play. We were never meant to hibernate. It makes the winter a whole lot more enjoyable than waiting for spring.”

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.