Maine’s snowmobile trails are better, although clubs still making repairs

By Julie Harris, Bangor Daily News Staff

Most of the state’s Interconnected Trail System for snowmobiles will be usable within the next week, according to the president of the Maine Snowmobile Association.

The group’s approximately 300 snowmobile clubs have been working hard since the devastating storm on Dec. 18, 2023, washed out trails and culverts, toppled thousands of trees across the trails and wiped out bridges.

Now that some areas have snow and trails are beginning to open, snowmobilers should watch out for downed trees across trails or stumps and rocks just under the snow’s surface.

The clubs were advised to focus on the trails associated with the Interconnected Trail System first, then work on the local trails they maintain, said Al Swett, the association’s president.

Photo courtesy of Blue Ridge Riders
CULVERT RESET — Water, water everywhere. Culverts like this one need to be reset to help drain the water. It’s a race against the clock with freezing temperatures coming soon. This washout is on ITS 66, which is maintained by Blue Ridge Riders Snowmobile Club in Rockwood.

Although the clubs have made a lot of progress, the thin layer of snow some places have may not be enough to keep hidden stumps and rocks from becoming a hazard, he said.

And absolutely stay off Maine’s bodies of water with snowmobiles, Swett said. Even in areas where there is ice, it may not be strong enough to support a snowmobile.

Several snowmobile clubs are warning people to stay off lakes and ponds as well.

Moosehead Lake has open water between the Moose River and Mount Kineo, according to Kate Tiffany, a member of the Blue Ridge Riders in Rockwood. There is a thin ice layer that ends nearly at the Rockwood town dock, but people are fishing in some of the coves and smaller ponds in the area, she said.

Once ice forms, the Moosehead Riders Snowmobile Club in Greenville normally stakes out a trail across the lake to keep snowmobilers on safe ice.

The trails in the Moosehead area are considered very early season riding conditions. 

Members of Blue Ridge Riders plan to fix the bridge on ITS 66 or to reroute the trail. If rerouting is necessary, the old trail they are repurposing will need to have brush cut on it and signs placed, she said.

“Fingers crossed that Saturday’s storm brings a decent amount of snow with less rain,” Tiffany said.

She voices a sentiment shared by many of the clubs, especially in central Maine, where there has been snow followed by rain.

Border Riders Sportsman’s Club in Jackman described the trails it recently opened as rideable but in poor condition. There are some patches of bare ground, exposed rocks and open water, even though there is a good base of snow, according to the club’s Facebook post on trail conditions.

There are some trail changes due to logging and storm damage, so it’s a good idea to check with the club before making your plans.

Although Aroostook trails did not see the damage from the Dec. 18 storm that others did around the state, they have not seen much snow either until recently.

Snow is spotty, but some of the most northern trails are open. The clubs in Aroostook hope this weekend’s storm will be all snow so they can get more trails ready for snowmobiles.

ITS 85 and 86, maintained by Twin Pines Snowmobile Club in Millinocket, are open and waiting for sleds.

Goodwill Riders Snowmobile Club in Hampden still had multiple trees down on its trails and put out an appeal for help earlier in the week as it continues to clean up from recent storms.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife sent out an email message to snowmobilers Friday afternoon reminding them to be considerate of active logging operations, to respect signage, including a new one that indicates where off-trail riding is prohibited, and to be courteous to the private landowners who allow trails on their property by not leaving trash or damaging the land.

The message also stressed that it’s particularly important this year for snowmobilers to check with local clubs to find out what trails are closed or rerouted due to storm damage. Most clubs have Facebook pages where they list current conditions.

“Unfortunately, it’s been another unusual year where ice is setting in slowly. Ice conditions vary throughout the state and washouts and rain storms have created hazardous conditions on the trails. Moreso than ever, use caution when out snowmobiling and ride to the conditions,” said Mark Latti, a spokesperson for the wildlife department.

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