Chandler Woodcock is making safety for snowmobilers a priority as he begins serving as commissioner of Maine’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife department.

“We’ve had a reasonably safe year, although there have been some difficult circumstances,” said Woodcock in reference to the four snowmobile deaths for the 2010-11 season.

“Safety remains a concern, because some people still operate snowmobiles in an unreasonable fashion. Alcohol remains a factor in accidents. Speed is as well. The sleds come right out of the box and are able to go really fast, and when you combine that with someone who is impaired or an inexperienced rider, it is a serious concern.

“You have to be responsible when it comes to speed.”

Woodcock applauds the snowmobile safety programs and courses that are already in place and is hopeful there will be more safety initiatives.

Maine has 14,500 miles of snowmobile trails, most of them on private land. It is a privilege provided to snowmobilers by the graciousness of landowners.

“In the end, the success of snowmobiling in Maine hinges on private land ownership, and I encourage all snowmobilers to be responsible and to respect the rights of landowners,” said Woodcock.

With spring’s arrival and the warmer, longer days, snowmobilers should use extreme caution when riding on lakes and ponds, many of which are unsafe because of deteriorating ice conditions.

Also, trail conditions can vary depending on where you are riding. Before venturing out, check with local clubs and find out trail and ice conditions.

However, this can be one of the most enjoyable times of the season to ride because of the warmer temperatures and increase in sunlight.

Maine snowmobile clubs provide rich sources of information for snowmobilers from all over the Northeast, all season long.

“The clubs in Maine have done a great job with grooming and maintaining the trails,” said Woodcock. “We have some incredible opportunities for people to view the state from a sled, whether they remain on Maine trails or are passing through on their way to other regions, such as the Canadian Maritimes or Quebec.”

MAINE TEAM WINS RACE

Rich Knipping of Monmouth and Rob Gardner of Norridgewock, otherwise known as Team Maine — Number 22, placed first in the 1,500-mile Cain’s Quest race across the Canadian wilderness and tundra.

In 2009, the team came in second. Knipping and Gardner crossed the finish line this year with a winning time of 18 hours and 58 minutes.

Twelve of the 26 teams were able to complete the grueling race, which took place March 12-19. The race started in Labrador City, Labrador, went on to Kuujjuaq, Quebec, and Churchill Falls, Labrador, then finished back in Labrador City.

Second place went to a team from Labrador City, while third place went to a Maine team, Grip ‘N Rip Racing, made up of Tim Lessard of Monmouth and Eric Hall of Jackman, who placed first in 2009.

The first-place team won half of the $65,000 pot, and the other seven top teams took home portions of the prize money.

Cathy Genthner is a registered Maine Guide licensed to guide snowmobile trips. She owns River Bluff Camps in Medford, located off ITS-83. She can be reached at:

[email protected]