Monday, March 10, 2014
By Cathy Genthner
Maybe because the snowmobile season of 2011-12 was so warm, dry and snowless, an average Maine winter like the one we just had seemed like a gift. Riding began in late December and didn't finish until late March. Snowmobilers and businesses that depend on them were aided by a healthy snowfall and busy season.
"This season was 50 percent better than last year," said Russell Walters, president of Northern Outdoors in the Forks, which rents snowmobiles and offers lodging. "We saw a nice rebound."
Walters said December, January and March were the busiest months. February, traditionally the busiest month for snowmobiling, was slower but still good.
"I think everyone in the Kennebec Valley felt it was a good season," said Walters. "It wasn't one for the record books but it was a good, solid season."
In the Katahdin region, reports were the same. "We had a great winter. There was lots of good riding from late December to the end of March," said Matt Polstein, owner of the New England Outdoor Center in Millinocket. "It was a banner winter with lots of happy guests."
The snow fell steadily and snowmobilers joyfully chased after it on well-groomed trails, thanks to work done by volunteers who are members of Maine's snowmobile clubs. The executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association, Bob Meyers, had a smile that lasted from December to March and its imprint is still there.
"It was an excellent season. In some places there was above average snowfall. It was an odd season in the fact that I don't remember a time when we had snow all over the state at the same time," said Meyers. "People got out there and it was safe. Statistically it has become a safe sport over the years."
The season had six fatalities, which, compared to the amount of riding that was available, was a relatively low number; other seasons had fatalities in the double digits. The low fatalities were due to snowmobilers following safety procedures, and the educational and patrolling efforts by the Maine Warden Service. In fact, Colonel Joel Wilkinson received the MSA's President's Award for his department's outstanding contribution to snowmobiling. The MSA awards took place in Brewer on April 13. Other awards and winners:
• Snowmobiler of the Year: Sonny Fogg of Penobscot is 82 and still rides an average of 3,000 miles a year in Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec.
• Groomer of the Year: Maber Cronkite of the Sebasticook Valley Snowmobile Club in Newport. Cronkite has groomed trails for decades and has a wealth of information to pass along to the next generation of groomers.
• Club of the Year: Bog Hooters Snowmobile Club of Mechanic Falls. The club has been active, working with businesses and promoting tourism. With the addition of the Oxford Casino, the club has worked with the chamber of commerce to make this new business a snowmobiling destination. The casino has a room where snowmobilers can hang up their gear, and a parking area for sleds.
• Business of the Year: Awards, Signage and Trophies of Brewer, owned by Bob Dion. The business has been very active with clubs. Also, unknown to Dion, employees at the business were able to make their own award plaque that was given to him at the awards ceremony to his surprise.
"Compared to last year, this season was nothing short of spectacular," chirped Meyers.
Cathy Genthner is the owner of River Bluff Camps, located off of ITS-83 and is licensed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to guide snowmobile trips. She can be reached at: