Midwinter bonanza of snow delights Bethel, Newry Nordic ski centers


BETHEL — Mother Nature has a heart, after all, providing Western Maine Nordic centers with a midwinter bonanza of snow just in time for Presidents Day weekend.

Mike Cooper said Friday afternoon in Bethel that he was ecstatic to get 14 inches of new snow and it was still snowing hard by 4:30 p.m.

Cooper manages The Bethel Inn Nordic Center and The Outdoor Center in Newry, a Nordic ski and snowshoe nonprofit.

“Skiing in Bethel is just superb right now,” Cooper said. “Everything is open. Everything is just perfect.”

Last month, a series of ice storms, rain and unseasonable warmth overran Western Maine, closing several cross-country ski centers or reducing available terrain and hours.

Cooper said he’s got 32 kilometers of trails open at the Bethel center.

“The Outdoor Center at Sunday River is looking good, we’re looking good, and Carter’s is looking good,” he said of Carter’s Cross-Country Center in Bethel.

Thursday’s snowstorm, and the sleet and rain that came with it early Friday morning before changing back to snow, dumped very dense snow on cross-country ski trails in Bethel and Newry, he said. That means extra grooming work.

“It takes a little while to get it under control,” Cooper said. “When you have new snow, you have to knock the air out of it.”

Bethel Inn Nordic Center groomer Spenser Williams of Greenwood spent all day Friday working on trails, releasing air from the snow, combing it into place and making mostly track, he said.

“It’s perfect stuff,” Williams said. “It’s going to be excellent. It’s going to be beautiful.

“The new stuff you have to go over every trail six times,” he said. “Three to bring it to width and twice again to knock it down and put a finish on it.”

Pointing to a map of the The Bethel Inn Nordic Center’s trails, Williams said it took about 35 to 45 minutes to make a loop, grooming just one trail. He and another groomer did five trails on Friday and will do six trails on Saturday and an additional 5 kilometers.

The new snow covered a base of up to 8 inches at the Bethel Inn center and ice left over from ice storms in December and January.

Williams said he and another groomer were reflecting on Friday about the ice storms.

“We were just reminiscing, going through a section of the trail that’s in the forest that had been a river,” he said. “You know, there was ice and it melted and all that. Yeah, so we had ice and this (new snow) covered it. No real sign of it, even walking out on the flats. It’s buried and now you really can’t even get down to it.”

Williams and Cooper said more snow is expected this weekend, with another snowstorm in the forecast for Tuesday, Feb. 18.

“Hopefully, this will take us through the rest of the season, with some icing on the cake, right?” Williams asked. “The cake is made.”

“Going into Presidents Day weekend, for  those of us that love skiing, this is a great Valentine’s gift,” Cooper said.

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