In many parts of U.S., it's a winterless wonderland

  • Man-made snow coats a ski run but barren ground remains under a chairlift at Shawnee Peak ski area, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, in Bridgton, Maine. Across much of the Northeast most natural snow has either melted or been washed away by rain. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

PORTLAND, Maine — The big snowstorms of autumn are just memories in New England, where people who make their living off winter tourism are losing income and New Hampshire primary candidates lack picturesque winterscapes for photo ops. Tourists in the West play golf instead of skiing. In Midwestern hockey country, you can barely slog a puck through the slush.

A continuing dearth of snow in many U.S. spots usually buried by this time of year has turned life upside down. The weather pattern that left many northern states with a brown Christmas is still sticking around, and the outlook for at least the next week is bleak for winter recreation enthusiasts.

Nationwide, the lack of snow is costing tens of millions of dollars in winter recreation, restaurant, lodging and sporting goods sales, experts said.

"It's Mother Nature. She's playing tricks on us, or something. Now it's getting nerve-racking," said Terry Hill, whose cash flow is nonexistent because her rental cabins are empty at Shin Pond Village, north of Maine's Baxter State Park, normally alive this time of year with the buzz of snowmobiles.

Early in the winter, the Southwest saw some heavy snow, as did parts of the Northeast clobbered by snow around Halloween and Thanksgiving that has since melted. The Pacific Northwest has seen snow recently. And longer-range forecasts predict above-normal or normal snow amounts for much of the country's northern half for the rest of the season.

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