Morning Sentinel
West Forks in search of more snow
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Staff Writer
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel 02/14/2010

WEST FORKS -- While some people might enjoy the recent lack of snow, it spells economic disaster for this community, which relies on snowmobilers for much of its business.

So, since the snow won't come to the community, the community is making it itself.

About a dozen business owners, firefighters, neighbors and town officials came together this week to make snow for two-and-a-half miles of in-town snowmobile trails, said Pete Dostie, who co-owns Hawk's Nest Lodge with Sarah Thrasher, a selectperson.

They were scheduled to start blowing most of the snow on the trails Saturday night.

The trails can draw as many as 600 people a day through this plantation, Dostie said, which has a year-round population of about 46. And when snowmobilers buy gas or food or stay the night, it means revenue for the community's five businesses open in the winter.

"It's big. It's everything. It's really important for us," Dostie said about having enough snow in town.

In addition to the white water rafting season in July and August, January, February and early March is the busiest time of year for the community. Dostie likened it to Christmas in other areas.

"Mother nature has not been kind this year, and the snowmobiles, they need the snow. With that rain storm we haven't gotten any snow in 17, 18 days, maybe even longer, and that's huge for this year," said Shannon Tomeny, who works at the lodge. "We're doing our best to make up for the lack of mother nature cooperation."

The West Forks is a central hub for snowmobilers traveling Maine's Interconnected Trail System, which connects towns and businesses across the state. Anyone snowmobiling from Rangeley and Eustis crosses through West Forks to go east to Millinocket and Greenville. And anyone heading north of Bingham to Jackman and Rockwood, also passes through West Forks, Dostie said.

The trails outside of town have enough snow, he said, but the segments in town, which are used more and are at a lower elevation, are bare. If they can put down three or four feet of snow on the in-town trails, it will last the rest of the winter, he said.

Snow-making helpers planned to truck in snow to some parts of the trail and, on other parts, to blow snow from the back of a groomer or a four-wheel-drive vehicle, he said.

The lodge has been making snow for a week, but the blower is stationary and small and only spans 300 feet, he said.

The Sunday River Ski Resort donated some equipment, as well as the Hawk's Nest Lodge, the local fire department and the Northern Outdoors Snowmobile Club. Selectmen Andy Webb and Harry Abraham, and Berry's General Store, are also helping in the process, Dostie said.

"It's just everyone in town in West Forks stepped up. Anyone would help us in any way. It's for all of us," he said.

Erin Rhoda -- 474-9534