MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Snowmobile season kicks off in northern New England this weekend, but trails are open only in areas of Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire that have enough snow left from the two early season snowstorms in November.
Riders are advised to check to see if trails are open and to drive slowly.
“We’ve had great preseason snow to get us ready but there’s still not a lot of snow out there,” said Cindy Locke, the executive director of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers or VAST, which oversees more than 4,700 miles of trails in Vermont. “And there are still trees down so people have been out clearing trees and the ground’s not completely frozen in certain areas so we’re just telling everybody if you’re going to go out on Sunday make sure your trails are open where you’re riding and take it easy, go slow.”
The trail master of the Brighton Snowmobile Club in Island Pond in northeastern Vermont expects 124 miles of trails, excluding a roughly two-mile stretch, will be ready by Sunday morning.
“In some spots we have a foot, in some other spots we have two feet, and way up the mountains there’s close to three,” trails master Reno Gervais said of the snow depths.
Most of northern New Hampshire trails and some areas in Grafton and Carroll County are expected to open on Saturday, according to Chris Gamache, chief of the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails. Some trails opened in the areas of Twin Mountain, Bartlett and Jefferson about two weeks ago, which was very early, he said by email.
“Overall, our season is shaping up well and we have good riding opportunities available pretty early, compared to other years. Ideally, we want some trails to open the 15th but really want to have decent riding available for the Holiday vacation week,” he wrote.
Few trails are ready yet in Maine, but a busy season is still shaping up, said Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association. The state has nearly 300 snowmobile clubs, and they’re currently in a rush to get ready by Dec. 15, which is the opening day for snowmobiling in many areas.
“The ground isn’t frozen in most areas and that makes a mess. Hopefully the colder temps now will freeze things up which will help the base and extend the season when the real snow arrives,” he said.
Maine has 14,500 miles of snow trails. Meyer said the state is also seeing a big increase in off-trail riding. Off-trail riding is permitted in the state unless barred by a landowner, but Meyer said it’s an activity that calls for common sense to avoid danger.
Associated Press reporters Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire, and Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.