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1st Quarter 5:17

Snow brings good news for N.H. skiing, snowmobiling

CONCORD, N.H. — Winter officially begins Friday, yet New Hampshire skiers and snowmobilers have been enjoying an early start and expressing optimism that this season will be snowier than last.

Parts of northern New Hampshire picked up more than a foot of snow earlier this week, and the forecast called for more Thursday night through Friday, with heavy accumulation possible.

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At Loon Mountain in Lincoln, spokesman Greg Kwasnik said that while there has not been much natural snow yet, it has been cold enough for snowmaking. The resort opened Nov. 15, five days earlier than last year, and by this weekend expects the amount of open terrain to exceed last year’s total by more than a third.

While Loon is hosting an ‘‘end of the world’’ party Friday night poking fun at the wave of doomsday speculation based on the end of the Mayan calendar cycle, it also plans to be busy Saturday.

‘‘We certainly hope it’s not the end of world, because we’re very optimistic about the coming season,’’ Kwasnik said.

After an unusually early snowstorm in October 2011, large portions of the state did not get much snow during winter. The snow drought and unseasonably warm temperatures hurt winter sports indus­tries and prompted cancellation of many winter sporting events.

This year, tourism officials are predicting an increase in visitors and spending. The Institute for New Hampshire Studies estimates that there will be 6.7 million visitors between early December and the end of February, a 5 percent rise above last year. Spending is expected to grow 9 percent, to $860 million.

Much of that money comes from snowmobilers, who were happy to see fresh snow earlier this week.

By midweek, more than 85 percent of the snowmobile trails had opened in Pittsburg, a popular snowmobiling destination, said Gail Hanson, New Hampshire Snowmobile Association chief.

‘‘It’s 100 percent better than last year,’’ she said.

While the Pittsburg area had enough for snowmobiling, Hanson said, other than that, ‘‘there wasn’t any other riding in the whole state last year.’’

New Hampshire has 7,400 miles of snowmobile trails, all of which are maintained by volunteers. Accord­ing to a recent study published by Hanson’s group, the industry brings in about $586 million in direct and indirect spending to the state each year.

Hanson said she hopes to do her first ride of the season on New Year’s weekend. Some skiers will not be waiting for that holiday, however.

Many of the state’s ski areas — including Bretton Woods, Waterville Valley, and Mount Sunapee — have been open for weeks and will remain open Christmas Day.

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