So far, Maine has been blessed with a white winter and while the warmer weather early last week may have melted some of the snow on the southern coast, there is still plenty of good snowpack in the western, central and northern areas.
“With the exception of this minor January thaw, riding conditions have been excellent all over the state, and as near as we can tell there is a tremendous amount of activity out there,” said Bob Meyers, the executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association. “Lakes and ponds remain a problem, and at this point probably will be all winter. All riders are encouraged to be very careful around all frozen lakes and ponds, and to always check locally before you go out riding.”
Snowmobilers who ride trails in the Bethel area are treated to magnificent views of the White Mountains, including the infamous Mount Washington, 6,288 feet high. There are more than 40 mountains in the Presidential Range that are more than 4,000 feet high, providing trails that meander through valleys, along glacier-cut rivers and up through mountain passes with stunning overlooks.
“Our area is very scenic. We have mountains and trails that wind up and over and all around the different sections,” said Loretta Powers, a member of the Windy Valley Snowmobile Club out of Newry. “When coming from Bethel, you climb Mount Will trail, which is steep and has a one-way-up and a one-way-down route to ensure safety. From that trail, you come along to the Bear River Valley and if the river is frozen you can make a nice loop ride, which goes by the memorial site.”
The Windy Valley Snowmobile Clubhouse is located on the north edge of Newry right of ITS-82. Brad White, who is 53 years old, is club president.
“We’ll be out grooming when other areas haven’t received any snow yet because we are in the mountains,” said White, a snowmobiler since he was 7.
Riding through Evans Notch and Gilead will bring you to scenic vistas on 36 miles of groomed trails through the White Mountain National Forest that lead to New Hampshire. A great trail in Newry is right across from the town office on Local Trail 13 South on the ledges. From the lookout, snowmobilers can see the Sunday River slope, Spruce Mountain to the west as well as the Woodstock area. The Norseman Inn in Bethel has local trail access in its yard. Also in Bethel, is a newly constructed bridge for snowmobilers and other recreational users that crosses the scenic Androscoggin River.
Just outside of Bethel on the access road to Sunday River is Sun Valley Sports and Guide Service. Registered Maine guide Lisa Freeda is the owner and offers guided snowmobile trips in the Bethel and Newry area. Her husband Rocky began the guide business in 1995 and died three years ago after a heart attack. She is keeping his dream and their business alive.
“A place I like to take people is Evans Notch off of ITS-84 because you can see Mount Washington and the whole White Mountain National Forest. There are also a few places on local trails, such as Local Trail Number 13 in Gilead where there is a lookout over the Androscoggin River Valley and you can look down toward Bethel. Also, if you take ITS-82 to Grafton Notch, it is in the Upton area and you can see Lake Umbagog,” said Freeda.
“I like to show people all the beauty along the trails. I also like to take them on night rides to watch the fireworks at the Sunday River ski resort. It is wonderful if we happen to see a turkey or moose and I’ll also tell them about the history of the area.”
Cathy Genthner is the owner of River Bluff Camps, located off of ITS-83 and is licensed by the state to guide snowmobile trips.