RANGELEY — Hundreds of people gathered outside the Moose Alley bowling alley Saturday afternoon to watch as a group of snowmobile riders scaled a pile of snow that dwarfed most of the buildings around it.

The Rave X show, consisting of snowmobile jumps and freestyle riding, was one of the main attractions at the annual Snodeo festival, especially given the less than ideal riding conditions and a lack of ice that lead to some races being canceled.

As the riders circled the small track that had been groomed for them leading up to the jump, the crowd watched intently and cheered as they made it over each jump, some riders taking their hands off their machines or lifting themselves off their seats.

“It’s pretty intense to watch,” said 23-year-old Karissa Robinson, of Windham. “It’s definitely crazier than anything I can do.”

The Snodeo, which is sponsored each year by the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club and is a fundraiser for the club, drew more than 1,000 people to the small town this weekend.

The festival started Thursday with a chili chowder cook-off and casino night and included family activities, a snowmobile parade Saturday night and for the first time this year, a day of cross country snowmobile races at the Steven A. Bean Airport.

The cross country races alone included 160 entrants and close to 1,000 spectators at the airport, said Michael Koobs, vice president of the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club.

“That was very good for the first year,” Koobs said. “We only expected about 400 or 500.”

Overall attendance at the festival was also good, Koobs said, especially considering the less than ideal riding conditions in the area. While much of the East Coast braced for Winter Storm Jonas over the weekend, Maine has seen relatively little snow this year, and in many areas warm temperatures have prevented ice from forming on the state’s lakes and ponds. Some races at Saturday’s Snodeo that were scheduled to take place on Haley Pond were canceled because of ice conditions.

“For the amount of snow we have, the trails are exceptional,” Koobs said. “People understand there are a few spots in the woods that are rough, but in areas we’ve groomed we’ve been able to make the trails smooth and flat. It’s actually been one of the best turnouts we’ve had in recent years.”

Riders Saturday gave varying accounts of the trail conditions in the Rangeley area.

“A lot of people recognize it’s not the best time to go (snowmobiling) because the area is suffering from a lack of ice and snow,” said Ryan Sweeney, 17, of North Anson. He said the trails in the North Anson area, about an hour east of Rangeley, are “halfway decent” and “a lot better than they are here.”

David Laffin and Eric Mason, who are both from Massachusetts and were staying at a house in Rangeley for the weekend, also said trails “were not that great.”

“They’re very icy,” said Laffin, 38. “There’s still more snow to be had. We rent a house up here anyways, so we figured we might as well enjoy the trails while we’re here.”

Kristen Verdonck, of Salem, New Hampshire, said the trails “don’t seem bad.”

“We come almost every weekend (to Rangeley), and we definitely made it a point to be here for Snodeo,” she said.

The festival was also one of the most profitable for the club in recent years, according to Koob, who said they raised $25,000 from an auction Friday night and about $7,000 at the racing events.

“I want to thank the people in the sport for supporting such a great event,” he said. “The town also really came through and just let us have the whole town. They were very receptive of all our events and didn’t say no to anything.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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