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Northern New England snowmobilers hope for snow and good sledding

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CORNWALL, Vermont — This week's heavy, wet snow could provide the solid base needed to get the snowmobile season on track, but trees knocked out in the storm could keep some trails closed beyond the start of the season.

"We've been working for months to get the trails ready," said Mike Paquette, the president of the Middlebury-based Foote of the Mountains Sno-Travelers, which has about 200 members and maintains 97 miles of trails in the Addison County area, including some in the Green Mountain National Forest, which are usually the first to open.

With the snowmobile seasons across northern New England set to get underway, snowmobilers in the three states are hoping for plentiful snow and weather cold enough to keep it from disappearing.

"There's a lot of snow, but it's so heavy and needs packing that people are going to get stuck left and right," Paquette said. "In the mountains anyplace you're in the woods, there are trees down everywhere and it may be until next weekend before we get those trails opened up."

PHOTO: In this Dec. 10, 2014 photo, snowmobiles sit in the yard of  Champlain Valley Motorsports in Cornwall, Vt. The state's snowmobile season is set to open Dec. 16. Snowmobilers say the heavy wet snow that fell this week provided a solid base, but the storm dropped trees that could keep some trails closed until next weekend. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)
In this Dec. 10, 2014 photo, snowmobiles sit in the yard of Champlain Valley Motorsports in Cornwall, Vt. The state's snowmobile season is set to open Dec. 16. Snowmobilers say the heavy wet snow that fell this week provided a solid base, but the storm dropped trees that could keep some trails closed until next weekend. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)

In Vermont, which has about 6,200 miles of corridor and secondary trails statewide, the season is set to open on Tuesday. New Hampshire's traditional trail opening date for its 7,000 miles of trail is Dec. 15. Maine, which has about 14,500 miles of trains, has no official opening, but the season usually gets going around Christmas.

"Things are just loosening up a little bit with the economy," said Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association. "I think people have money in the pockets. Gas prices are going down. People are feeling good about things," he said.

The storm that dumped a foot or more of snow in some areas and knocked out power to tens of thousands of Vermonters could be a good start to the season, even if some trails are blocked. Snowmobilers hope a solid base will be followed by temperatures cold enough to freeze low-lying areas and ensure that any future snowfalls builds up on top of it.

"It's one of those things that you never know how long the snow is going to last, when it's going to come (and) how much you're going to get," said Paquette, who works at the Champlain Valley Motorsports in Cornwall, where almost a foot of snow fell between Tuesday and Thursday.


AP reporters Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, and David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

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PHOTO: In this Dec. 10, 2014 photo, John Richmond, a technician at Champlain Valley Motorsports, works on a snowmobile in Cornwall, Vt. The state's snowmobile season is set to open Dec. 16. Snowmobilers say the heavy wet snow that fell this week provided a solid base, but the storm dropped trees that could keep some trails closed until next weekend. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)
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