Maine has always been one place with a reliable snowpack, something that’s given rise to four-season tourism and a brisk winter sports scene. But this year, temperatures at both ends of the state are running about nine degrees above normal, and the state has received a lot less snow than it normally has.
That’s worrisome for snowmobilers, who are usually gearing up for the new season right about now.
Morning Edition host Jennifer Mitchell spoke about the state of the sport with Al Swett, vice president of the Maine Snowmobile Association.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Mitchell: So normally, right about now, I start hearing little engines whining off into the distance down trails, but so far, I haven’t. What is the snowmobile scene at the moment?
Swett: Pretty poor. It’s pretty poor statewide, unless you get over into the Western Mountains, up by Carrabassett, Kingfield, Eustis, Stratton, Rangeley area. There’s some rideable snow there, but a lot of other areas of the state just don’t have it. They just don’t have the cover. And there’s rocks and stumps showing — you’ve gotta be very careful.
We’ve been hearing reports that outdoor retailers have had a booming year, with everything from camping gear and tents to skis and snowshoes, as people are thirsting to get outside. Were people buying sleds also?
People are buying sleds like there’s no tomorrow. Everybody wants to get outside, to get out away from the pandemic evidently and, with the summer that we all had, people were out hiking and biking. The same thing actually happened to snowmobiling. They really went hog wild, actually, and bought sleds and accessories, helmets — everything they need to be outfitted — new trailers. And they’re just sitting in their dooryards waiting for snow.
What are you hearing from folks at sporting camps or at all the support businesses around the state? I understand snowmobiling has a lot of support businesses that have sprung up.
A lot of places that have been open traditionally have closed. There’s some awesome restaurants and bed and breakfasts in these destination points that aren’t opening up this year. And that’s pretty sad, because it’s just the way of the year I guess. Everything’s gone to pieces.
It has also been warmer than normal, not just with snow. I know some lodges in some areas you have to cross bodies of water to really get there in an expedient way. Is that also a problem, where it seems like the ice must not be that thick yet?
The ice is not safe and it will not be safe this winter. I just want you all to know out there to stay off any body of water. Please don’t go on the ice this winter.
Is there any good news at all?
I mean, I’ve been listening like everybody, like every snowmobiler and winter enthusiast has been listening, listening to the weather, and they say it’s going to change and we’re just going to have to wait and hopefully keep our fingers crossed. But it don’t look too good to me. I hope so. I really hope so. I’ve gotta get out and ride.