Lack of lake ice delays Snowfest

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NORWAY – Unseasonably warm weather has melted away plans for the annual snowmobile races usually held the last weekend in January on Norway Lake.

The Norway Trackers Club has rescheduled the Snowfest event for Feb. 17 and 18, a little more than two weeks after the regular date.

“We’ve never postponed before,” said Jaime Mowatt of the Trackers Club. “This is the very first time.”

Last winter, Norway police had to help keep vehicles from driving onto the ice out of concern that it might not hold the weight of many cars and trucks, let alone spectators and snowmobiles.

Lakes remain open around much of Maine; including Moosehead Lake in Greenville remains free of ice.

“Some of the big ones like Sebago might not freeze this year if it doesn’t cool off this year,” said Art Lester from his station at the National Weather Service in Gray. “The ocean water is in the mid-upper 40s. Normally we’re down to 40, or upper 30s. What that does is make it harder for us to sustain a snowstorm without changing to rain.”

December was the 6th warmest on record dating back to 1940, Lester said. Six of the top seven warmest winters have been recorded in the past 16 years. On Jan. 6, when highs reached 67 degrees, the temperature was 38 degrees above the average for that day.

Lester said the short-range weather outlook includes cooler weather the next few days then warming during the weekend. Rain or snow is predicted for late in the weekend or on Monday, with temperatures dropping afterward.

Mowatt said the lake needs two weeks of cold temperatures with nights well below freezing to ice over and be safe for the crowds.

Trackers members are keeping their fingers crossed that winter will finally arrive, allowing Snowfest to be the hit it has been for the past 10 or so years.

“It’s our major fundraiser of the year and it brings a lot of people to the Norway-Paris area, so it is a big event for everyone all around,” membership Chairman Russ Newcomb said.

He said club membership is down because many families wait for a good snowfall before signing up.

Funds raised during Snowfest go toward the roughly $10,000 needed to maintain 35 miles of trails in Norway. “This is the main way we earn money to pay for the gas for the machines we use to keep the trails dragged. And we go and cut wood to keep the trails maintained,” Mowatt said, estimating the two days of races and food should bring in around $5,000, if all goes well.

“We’re pretty confident it’ll freeze,” she said.

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