Sales aren't warming for winter businesses in Fairbanks

Posted: Monday, December 02, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- From heating oil to firewood to snow plows, if it has anything to do with cold or snow it's not selling in Fairbanks, still experiencing one of the warmest winters ever.

''It's pretty much nonexistent,'' Kathy Hansen said of business at Alaska Snow Plow Center. ''When it snows we get business, and when it doesn't snow we don't get business.''

Fairbanks has received nearly a foot and a half of snow so far this winter, but most of it melted with above-normal temperatures, including a 41-degree reading on Friday.

With most cross-country ski trails bare and downhill ski areas still waiting to open, skis and snowboards haven't exactly been selling briskly at Beaver Sports.

''Things that glide on snow are not moving right now,'' said store manager Doug Fremd.

The same is true for cold-weather clothing, he said.

The exception is a product called Get-A-Grips, basically crampons that slip on over shoes and are commonly used by runners. The crampons have carbide spikes to improve traction on ice.

Those have been popular because streets and sidewalks have been covered with a sheet of ice due to the warm weather, and even some rain.

''We've had to reorder those,'' Fremd said.

Snowmachine sales are way down this year all over town, according to local dealers. Business was OK in October because there was some snow. But with less than 2 inches of snow so far this month, buying has tailed off, said Dan Simmons at Northern Power Sports.

While the service department did a decent business last month, even repairs have tapered off. ''Nobody is breaking their machines because nobody is riding them,'' he said.

Still, firewood sales at North Pole Wood Products have been steady, said owner Jack Howard. He doesn't advertise and most of the wood that he has sold has gone to longtime customers who want to be prepared when it does get cold.

''Now's a good time to get it because you can still stack it,'' he said.

Howard is confident that sooner or later the mercury is going to drop. He should know; he's lived in Fairbanks for almost 50 years.

''It's warm now, but the bottom can drop out anytime,'' he said.

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