Lack of snow halts Fairbanks snowmachine sales

Posted: Monday, November 25, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- You would think being in the snowmachine business would be a good gamble in Fairbanks, Alaska.

But this year the white stuff is scarce.

''We do the snow dance nightly,'' said John Haddad, co-owner of Polaris Outpost, a shop that sells Polaris snowmachines. Sales are not robust, he said.

Weather forecasters and snowmachine enthusiasts alike are scratching their hatless heads waiting for snow and cold.

''There isn't going to be any for quite some time, at least not this week,'' said Marvin Percha, National Weather Service meteorologist. Percha blames a warm southerly wind that dumps all its moisture in the form of rain south of the Alaska Range. There's not much left for the Interior, he said.

The lack of snow has prompted one snowmobile business to cajole on the radio, ''If you buy it, it will snow.''

The scant snow cover hasn't helped Polaris Outposts' repair shop either, Haddad said. But the snowmachine store shares retail space with the Harley Davidson Farthest North Outpost and since this is Harley's 100th anniversary, motorcycles are moving out of the store, Haddad said. He also has plenty of snowmachine and motorcycles accessories that make good Christmas gifts.

''We've got plenty to keep us busy,'' he said.

The sale slowdown makes it a good time to catch up on loose ends that tend to get ignored when it's busy, said Gabriele Larry, co-owner of the Alaska Fun Center.

''People are still coming in and looking,'' she said. ''As soon as it dumps, everybody is just going to go crazy. We're just waiting.''

Things are at a standstill at Sno-RV Snowmachine Rentals in Chatanika, said owner Sam Burger. The business offers snowmachine rentals and guided snowmachine tours.

''We just don't have enough to operate,'' he said. He has reservations on hold for the Thanksgiving weekend, but it looks like he'll have to call the people up and cancel, he said.

Without enough snow it looks as if the Fairbanks Snow Travelers will have to call off a planned trek from Chena Lakes Recreation Area to Chena Hot Springs scheduled for Dec. 7, said John Johnston, club president.

''It's too bad,'' he said. ''It looked like it would be a pretty nice ride.''

It's not all bad. The snow at Summit Lake, about 150 miles south of Fairbanks, is OK at the higher altitudes, he reported. ''Some of the hard-core boys are getting back up in there,'' he said.

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