Titcomb Mountain in Farmington had advertised that it would open Saturday, but now is going to push it back a few days.

Farther southeast at the Quarry Road Recreation Area in Waterville, a cross-country ski event Sunday was canceled, but organizers say skiers can still try out what man-made snow there is.

And the Maine Snowmobile Association said riders aren’t panicking — yet.

Across central Maine, unseasonably warm temperatures and a lack of snow are hindering the start to winter recreation and outdoor-oriented commerce, but those industries are remaining optimistic and saying it’s not a disaster yet.

Caroline Mathes, the president of the Friends of Quarry Road, the volunteer group supporting the city-owned recreation area, said Monday that the area might not get the cold weather it needs — 25 degrees or below — to make snow until this weekend.

“I’m really hoping we have something for this weekend, because Mother Nature is not cooperating,” Mathes said.

Although Sunday’s race was canceled, Quarry Road hosted a coach and community leaders workshop with the Maine Winter Sports Center on Saturday, and people from Bath, Bangor and Portland came up to ski, Mathes said.

“People are coming from a ways away because we have snow and it is right off I-95,” she said.

Titcomb Mountain advertised a Dec. 19 opening for the winter season on its website, but manager Megan Roberts said Monday that date is expected to be pushed back to around Dec. 22 or Dec. 23, depending on when temperatures get cold enough to make snow.

Titcomb has yet to make snow, but Roberts said that they have tested their snow making guns and will try to make snow this weekend.

“Our ideal temperature (to make snow) is 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but this weekend we’ll go for any temperature,” Roberts said.

Everyone may have to wait a while longer though. Justin Arnott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said Monday that “there is no real sign that this mild pattern is going to change through at least the end of the month.”

In southern and central Maine high temperatures have remained 10 degrees above the seasonal norm, ranging in the low to mid forties, Arnott said. Additionally there has been no measurable snowfall in these areas, putting this winter in a tie for seventh place with December 2000 for the latest measurable snowfall. Arnott said that in the mountains of western Maine there has been some measurable snow, but not as much as normal for this time of year.

Despite a front that will bring colder weather to the area over the weekend with high temperatures in the 30s slated for Saturday and Sunday, Arnott says the warm weather is likely to continue through the end of December.

The warm temperatures have not yet had an effect on the state’s snowmobile industry, Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association, said Monday. Typically, the association tells snowmobilers they’ll be able to ride around New Year’s Day.

“This is nowhere near panic time yet,” Meyers said. “But I think people are starting to get a little anxious.”

What riders are concerned about at this time in the season is ground freeze, he said. While the warm temperatures have been pleasant for preseason maintenance and grooming of the 14,000 miles of trails in Maine, if the ground does not freeze before Jan. 1, trail conditions might be thrown off for the whole season.

“If we don’t have a freeze before the snow comes, we have a mess of a winter,” Meyers said.

The snowmobile industry in Maine is a $300 million-a-year boost to the state’s economy, Meyers said, and with an extensive trail system throughout the state, it’s one of the ways communities in rural Maine can reap tourism benefits.

Economically “it helps a lot of small rural areas that don’t have a lot of stuff going on,” Meyers said. “Having snow on the ground gets people out there having fun and spending money.”

The president of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce in Waterville, Kimberly Lindlof, said the delayed start to winter has presented a “mixed bag” of effects for business and commerce in central Maine.

According to Lindlof, the lack of snow is having positive effects for shoppers and travelers with no winter storms to keep them indoors on weekends. But without the winter weather businesses in the outdoor recreation and snow removal sectors are seeing a delayed start to the time of year they generate their income.

“Obviously this isn’t helping those businesses geared around snowmobiling and (other) snow activities,” Lindlof said. “But certainly having warm weather on the weekends has increased the number of people out shopping.”

Tanya Bentley, executive director of the Kennebec Valley Tourism Council, echoed Lindlof, saying that the mild weather is benefiting the state’s retail sector, but she is concerned about the delaying effects a lack of snow and cold temperatures is having on winter recreation.

“It seems like the activities that are typically done in the fall time are being extended. But I am afraid that some of our winter businesses may not open if they depend, say, on the ice freezing over,” Bentley said.

Bentley’s concerns were geared specifically towards her hometown of Gardiner where she said several ice fishing-oriented businesses might not get the opportunity to open if the river does not have time to freeze over before the spring thaw.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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