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Wintery Mix

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Editor's note: Wire reports contributed to parts of this story.

For a long time, this winter wasn't really acting like a winter. Balmy temperatures, not-so-white Christmas, open water just about everywhere. Well, now that it's mid-January things are starting to normalize. We've had a couple of decent-sized weather events and soon those who enjoy being out in the cold will be able to do so.

If you're one of those people, you probably know a fair thing about what the state has to offer in terms of outdoor winter activities. But if you're new, or made a resolution to get out and play in the snow, here's a few things you can try.

Caveat: Yes, we've had some snow and colder temperatures, but that doesn't mean waterways have frozen solid in that amount of time, or that all the snowmobile trails are open. If you aren't sure, check with your local clubs or state organization about your trip. It spoils everyone's fun if your Skidoo falls through the ice or bottoms out on a log. Be careful and have fun.

Ride the trails

Maine has a huge network of snowmobile trails, maintained diligently by the literally hundreds of snowmobile clubs that are scattered across the state. If you think your town doesn't have a snowmobile club, you are probably wrong. Check out this amazingly comprehensive list of clubs at www.sledmaine.com/clubs/club.html. Though many of the clubs have names you would expect, some are wildly creative (favorites include the Downeast Stump Jumpers in Perry and the Greene Dragons out of Greene).

If you want to ride the trails, it's best if you check with your local club to make sure conditions are suited. Though the powder is finally falling, it's important to avoid trails that cross open water, or that may have rough patches.

Many clubs do a lot of legwork in terms of getting landowner permission to ride on trails. They also groom and maintain the trails, so if you enjoy snowmobiling, it's almost a must to become a member.

If you can't afford to snowmobile, or simply want to see if it's right for you, rent one. There are many places that will rent snowmobiles, offer quick lessons and even take you out on the trails to show you the ropes. The Inn by the River in The Forks, Maine offers rentable snowmobiles.

Ice fishing

This is another area where you will want to check with the local authorities about whether the ice is safe. Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issues weekly ice fishing reports, and they are still noting that many bodies of water are iffy at best. They advise that you check the ice prior to moving heavy equipment.

According to the IFW website, here are the guidelines for ice safety:
2-inches or less - STAY OFF

4-inches - may allow ice fishing or other activities on foot

5-inches - often allows for snowmobile or ATV travel

8- to 12-inches of good ice - supports most cars or small pickups

12- to 15-inches - will likely hold a medium-sized truck.

If you're looking to participate in one of Maine's many ice-fishing derbies, you should check out the IFW's list: www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing/derbies_tournaments/derbies.htm

Ice climbing

Yes, we just spoke about how unsafe the ice is at the moment, but that doesn't make this next topic any less awesome. You can learn how to climb ice right here in Maine. Whether you're just starting out, or you've been doing this for years and need an outlet, Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School offers various classes for this epic sport.

You pay for the class and wear weather-appropriate clothing, they supply all the technical equipment. The price varies based on how long the class is and the student-teacher ratio (one-on-one lessons are more expensive than a class of six). There are also family plans available for your family of ice climbers.

You can read about the classes and where they are offered here: www.acadiamountainguides.com/instruction/schedule.html.

Sled dogs, because sled dogs!

If you're interested in dog sled racing, you don't have to drive all the way to Fort Kent to enjoy the sport. Registration is currently open for the 10th Annual Plum Creek Wilderness Sled Dog Race, which is scheduled to take place on Feb. 6 at 8:30 a.m. at the Leisure Life Resort in Greenville.

'Believe it or not, there are only three long-distance sled dog races in all of New England,' said Angela Arno, executive director of the Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce in a press release. 'This one is special because it takes racers through some of the most scenic trails in the country. Mushers have a great time, and for spectators there are a number of vantage points along the 70-mile trail for viewing, and a day full of events for families and fans alike. It's become a signature event and a premiere attraction to the Moosehead region.'

Spectators interested in visiting the region for the day can witness both the 70-mile race which starts at 8:30, and the 30-mile race which starts at 10:30. Both events are free to the public. There is also a Snowshoe Race starting at 11, a meet and greet with the mushers, skating, a bonfire, a movie showing, and later in the evening awards and cocktails.

The Plum Creek Wilderness Sled Dog Race is put on by the Wilderness Sled Dog Racing Association and attracts teams from all over the Northeast and Canada.

Mushers interested in participating in the race still have time to register to compete for the $10,000 70-mile race purse or the $3,000 30-mile race purse. For information, visit www.100MileWildernessRace.org or call (207) 695-2421.

Hermon Mountain: Ski, snowboard, tube!

Right in Bangor's back yard you can hit the slopes, learn to ski, or take the whole family. With a 600-foot tubing run, with its own lift, you can enjoy tubing without all the walking. Tickets for tubing are $12 per person.

If you want more than the tubing, you can hit the slopes for some downhill skiing, or if you're new to alpine skiing or simply want to hone your skills, you can take lessons for various levels of ability. Prices vary depending on if you are taking group lessons or are interested in private lessons.

2016 Toboggan Championships

The Toboggan Championships will be taking place on Feb. 5, 6 and 7.

The Camden Snow Bowl and the Event Committee are thrilled again to be bringing another great three-day weekend of outdoor fun, activities, camaraderie and spirited competition to the Midcoast. Camden will again host teams and spectators from all over the country for a weekend dedicated to the zany sport of traditional wooden toboggan racing. Have a great time while you are here, enjoy all that Camden has to offer during the weekend, stay warm and have a safe time outdoors.

The original toboggan chute dates back to 1937. In 1991 it was officially dedicated as the Jack R. Williams Toboggan Chute and the first U.S. National Toboggan Championships were held, an event created by then-Camden Parks and Recreation Director Ken Bailey. In 2015, the Toboggan Championships celebrated 25 years.

Still going strong, the annual 'Toboggan Nationals' boasts a field of 425 teams, nearly 1,300 racers and more than 6,000 spectators for three days of events! This sell-out event makes the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area the most popular place to be in the Midcoast each February.

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 January 2016 21:34

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