There is riding and grooming going on across the state, now that many parts of Maine have received substantial snowfall, but the snow is patchy in some places. The warm fall and a few days of warmer than normal weather in January have resulted in open water — not all lakes and ponds are frozen enough for riding.

If you are in doubt about trail or ice conditions, check with local clubs or chambers of commerce for riding conditions.

Snowmobilers should always think of safety first, staying to the right and traveling at a speed that is prudent for the existing conditions, which can change in a matter of minutes depending on the weather and how heavily the trail has been used. There were three fatal snowmobile accidents on Jan. 21 in Dallas Plantation, Lee and Mariaville, along with four crashes resulting in injuries. Game warden major Gregg Sanborn has urged snowmobilers to use good judgment and common sense, never drive beyond the capabilities of the operator or machine, and never drink and drive.

* Winter Carnival is a go: The 13th annual Naples Winter Carnival will be held Feb. 10-12 on Long Lake by the causeway and is being hosted by the Muddy River Sno-Seekers Snowmobile Club. Proceeds raised from the carnival will go toward trail grooming and maintenance. Money raised from the Hannaford Fishing Derby will be donated to the United Way.

The winter carnival celebrates everything winter has to offer, is a great way to beat cabin fever, and fosters a sense of community.

“We have some wonderful, scenic trails and people from all over come to the carnival, and that is great for all the businesses, such as the local gas stations and restaurants,” said Dan Allen, the chair of this year’s winter carnival and a member of the snowmobile club.

“On the winter carnival weekend, the town comes alive. On Saturday night, the causeway and all the businesses are so full of life.”

The carnival gets under way at 6 p.m. Friday with a torch-light parade that is really something to see.

“The parade starts at the Black Bear Cafe, goes over to the skating rink by the American Legion, on to the Galley Restaurant, and then ends up at Bray’s Brew Pub. It’s really a cool site to see 50 or more snowmobiles traveling down the trail with torch lights. And it’s loads of fun for the riders,” said Bernadette Flood, the president of the snowmobile club.

“The focus of the event is on community, pulling everyone together with help from the fire department, the Lions Club and local businesses. We partner with Hannaford, which hosts a fishing derby the same weekend. Hannaford brings a trailer full of grocery products and donates the food to the Naples Food Bank.”

There are a number of activities for snowmobilers and even those who don’t snowmobile. The festival is very family-oriented, with a number of activities for children, including a bouncy house on the ice, free ice skating at the town rink, and free coach rides for all ages. Also, the Naples town gym will be open and features games for children, along with free movies and hot cocoa. There are helicopter rides (for a fee) to give people a bird’s eye view of Long Lake and the Sebago Lake area. There are also several food vendors, a poker rally, snowmobile races and special evening activities and musical entertainment. There is a bonfire on Saturday night, followed by fireworks that are reportedly very stiff competition for the fireworks held on the lake for the Fourth of July.

“We focus on family fun and a place where anyone can come out and have a good time,” said Allen. “One of my favorite things to do during the event is to look up at the causeway from the lake. When I see all the parking spaces full and a lot of the cars full of senior citizens watching what is going on, to me, that is what it’s all about. And, the best reason to come to the winter carnival is that most of what we do is free to the public.”

For more information, visit www.muddyriversnoseekers.org. For more information about upcoming snowmobiling events, safety courses and an itinerary form (click the link for MSA members), visit the Maine Snowmobile Association website at www.mesnow.com.

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.


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