Tony Dobrowolski | Out Of The Pages: How to cope with a snowless winter
PITTSFIELD >> It's been fairly cold so far this winter in the Berkshires, but there hasn't been a lot of snow.
At Carr Hardware, there are currently "truckloads" of ice melt, wood pellets, snowblowers and snow shovels gathering dust at the chain's stores throughout the Berkshires, according to owner Bart Raser.
So how do you sell a snow shovel when there's no snow to remove? Raser chuckled.
"At some point there's a price low enough for someone to buy one," Raser said.
It helps to be creative, too.
"We had a no snow must go sale," Raser said. "It was actually very effective. We didn't even advertise. It was just luck. My sense is we may have to re-introduce it again."
Now, a low-snow winter may seem strange after all the snow and cold we had in the Berkshires last year, but it's not unusual by any means. Global warming or not, we've had plenty of low-snow winters in the over 20 years that I've lived here. The difference so far this year has been how close we've come to being a winter wonderland.
Our near miss last week was a particularly cruel tease perpetuated by Mother Nature when you think about the snow totals in areas that aren't that far away.
The Blizzard of 2016 dropped 26 inches on New York City, and 13 inches in coastal Connecticut, but absolutely nothing here. It may have happened before, but I can't ever remember a snow storm of that magnitude coming up the East Coast and leaving nothing, not even a trace, of snow in the Berkshires.
Unless you're going near or over the Canadian border — Montreal had more than a foot of snow shortly before New Year's — this season you have to travel south from the Berkshires to find measurable snow not north. Having grown up in a coastal community I know how strange this phenomenon must be for residents who live along the coast.
When you live near the water, every time it snows, skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts begin thinking about how much snow is falling in the mountains. Ski areas capitalize on this trend, too. In Connecticut, highway billboards are full of advertisements for ski areas north of the Nutmeg State (Ski Butternut in Great Barrington advertises on a prominent billboard in Waterbury, Conn. near the intersection of routes 8 and 84). It wouldn't surprise me if a lot of coastal residents headed north just by force of habit following last week's blizzard only to be badly disappointed, maybe even shocked, when they got here.
Low-snow winters can really put a crimp in the business of winter in areas like ours that receive a sizable boost in revenue from tourism. Our local ski areas, both downhill and cross country suffer the most, of course. So do some lodging establishments and restaurants that benefit from the ski trade, but they always have an opportunity to make up for what they lost during the summer.
For retail establishments like Carr Hardware lack of snow can really impact the bottom line.
"It certainly has an effect," Raser said. "It impacts all of our customers. Skiers, hotels, and landscapers are not buying the materials either ... our economy is all related."
Of course, it's still January. In the Berkshires, we've received measurable snow as late as May. So it's still possible that we could see sizable snowfall here by the end of the winter.
Raser hasn't given up hope for a snowy winter yet, although he said Carr Hardware has already begun to prepare for spring.
"I would have loved to have had it another way," he said. "But at this time in our evolution you can't be distracted by the weather.
"If it comes I'll try to be opportunistic," he said, adding that he doesn't get frustrated by things that he can't control.
Neither should we.
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