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December 27. 2012 10:30PM

Nor'easter has North Country's ski crowd smiling


Snow sleddingIt was almost a white-out off the West Side Road in Conway at a popular sledding spot, where the soft snow was ideal for velvety smooth runs down the hill. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX/Union Leader Correspondent)
Residents in the northern half of the state woke up to several inches of fresh snow Thursday, giving ski and snowmobile enthusiasts a late Christmas present.

If Thursday's snow totals weren't quite as high predicted, plow drivers, trail groomers and vacationing school children still had plenty enough to play and work in.

By late afternoon, when the storm seemed to be winding down, snow had piled up anywhere from seven to 12 inches. Lt. Chris Perley of the Conway Police Department said it was pretty quiet on the roads within the town. He said the advance notice of the nor'easter made a big difference, as did having schools closed for vacation week.

It was a great day, he said, for people to stay at home in their pajamas.

Not everyone followed his advice, though most of the drivers through the Conways were proceeding with caution. Down Route 16 in Albany, just miles from the Conway border, two vehicles collided, closing the road for about an hour. Chief Steve Solomon of Conway Fire and Rescue said it was a "t-bone" style accident, and that it appears one vehicle spun out and was hit broadside by the other. Seven people were involved in the accident, and one was transported to the hospital.

Most people had no trouble getting around. Jackson Ski Touring Center opened all its trails before the full strength of the storm hit, having received enough snow in previous days to pack down a base. The center reported four inches of new snow between Tuesday and Wednesday, and hundreds of skiers coming out to enjoy Thursday's snow.

In the uppermost North Country, the Pittsburg Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club posted a "very good" to "great" trails report, with 100 percent of the 2012-13 trail system open.

As to the rest of the season, Alice Pearce, president of Ski NH, said, "Everybody's smiling and keeping their fingers crossed."

Pearce said that historically a good ski season follows after a bad one, especially if there is more snow, as the pent up demand pushes up numbers. She's optimistic, too, because two years ago there was a storm the day after Christmas, and then snow storms almost every Wednesday after. "It was one of our best years ever," she said, adding that a similar weather pattern could be shaping for this year.

By noon, Loon was reporting a foot of new snow at the summit, with five to six inches at the base. Waterville Valley reported eight inches of new powder by mid-afternoon, an amount on par with the White Mountains' other ski areas.

Pearce said it felt like such a long time since the last snowstorm, though she said there were storms last February and March, but those were almost too late in the season to grab the attention of skiers in southern New England.

It's setting up, she said, for "a very, very solid Christmas vacation week," and a very good snow season.

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Sara Young-Knox may be reached at syoungknox@newstote.com.

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