AUBURN — Rene Ouellette didn’t figure his would be the first group to break in the Andy Valley Sno Gypsies’ new, 10-mile snowmobile trail Saturday afternoon.

Trail master Kevin Norcross had set out an hour earlier in the club’s snow blazer — a modified Chevy Blazer tricked out with snowmobile treads — to groom the trail, getting it ready for an afternoon of riding.

“But one thing you know, people follow the groomer,” Ouellette said. “They stay right on it, then wave as they go past, ‘Good job! What a great trail.’ But it’d be even better if they’d wait an hour and let it set up. Then, everybody’d get a good ride, not just them.”

Still, there’d be plenty of time for the trail to settle. It connects the city’s 30 miles of groomed trails to the larger state system, and has been five years in the making. It’s meant hours of negotiations with property owners and summers fixing bridges and clearing brush.

“Part of the problem is that property owners change, and so your regular trails have to change, too,” Norcross said. “Instead of working on the new one, you have to go back and rework the old ones and make sure you still have places to ride.”

The group debuted the new trail on groomed, backwoods snow Saturday as part of the Auburn Winter Festival. The trail connects the group’s Mt. Apatite warming hut and its clubhouse, just off Hatch Road, with The Basin, the pond just north of Lake Auburn. And it does it without crossing either Taylor Pond or Lake Auburn.

“That’s a big deal, because we can’t groom on the water and we can’t ride on it early in the season,” Ouellette said.

From the basin, snowmobile riders can connect to the International Trail System’s Trails 89 and 87, and from there to the rest of the state.

It’s an all-volunteer effort for the group, its 50 members and 12 business sponsors. Ouellette estimated the club spends between $6,000 and $7,000 per year maintaining the trails, fixing and repairing trail bridges, removing downed trees and the like. The group gets a $3,300 grant from the state for its efforts, but no money from the city.

On Saturday morning, all that was left was to put up the signs marking the trail — and ride.

Winter Festival continues Sunday with a pond hockey tournament at Walton Field, ice skating at Ingersoll Arena; and ski racing and snow raft rides at Lost Valley Ski Area.

When the festival continues next weekend, the Sno Gypsies will be at Lost Valley on Friday night, offering rides in their snow blazer and on the ski area’s groomers, Ouellette said.

[email protected]

Auburn Winter Festival Schedule of Events

Events are free unless stated otherwise.

Sunday, Jan. 30

* Groomer rides, 8:30-10 a.m. at Lost Valley.

* Snow rafting rides for $2 each or three rides for $5, noon to 4 p.m. at Lost Valley.

* Pond Hockey 3 on 3 finals noon to 4 p.m., Walton Field.

* Maine Ski challenge giant slalom races 1-3 p.m. at Lost Valley. $4 registration.

* Cross country skiing and snowshoeing Lake Auburn, 1-4 p.m. Parking, warming fire and hot chocolate at Sticks and Stones, 185 N. Auburn Road.

* Public skating, 4-6 p.m. at Ingersol Arena, $4 students; $3 seniors

Monday, Jan. 31

* $18 lift ticket at Lost Valley with a current ticket from another ski area, 2:30-8 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 1

* Fifty-cent movie “Lost Horizons” 2 p.m. at Auburn Public Library.

* Buy one lift ticket, get one free at Lost Valley, 2:30-8 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 2

* Buy one lift ticket, get one free at Lost Valley, 2:30-8 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 3

* Bag lunch discussion: Winter in Maine before the Electric Age, noon at the Auburn Public Library.

Friday, Feb. 4

* Winter stories, hot chocolate and crafts, 10-11 a.m. at the Auburn Public Library.

* Triple Crown ski race, registration 3:30 p.m., race at 5 p.m. at Lost Valley.

* Bonfire and sledding, snowmobile/groomer rides, hot chocolate and s’mores, 5-8 p.m. at Lost Valley.

* Rock with Under the Covers, 8 p.m. at Lost Valley

Saturday, Feb. 5

* Taylor Pond ice fishing derby, 8 a.m to 3 p.m., Taylor Pond

* $21 lift ticket at Lost Valley in honor of the area’s 50th anniversary, 2:30-8 p.m.

* Public skating, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., snowshoe walk, 10 a.m. to noon, snowplayground, 10 a.m. to dusk, Walton Field.

* Music by Nick Knowlton, 10 a.m. to close at Lost Valley.

* Really Ridiculous Relay race, 10-11:30 a.m. at Lost Valley.

* Children’s crafts, activities, face painting, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lost Valley.

*Snow rafting rides for $2 each or three rides for $5, noon to 4 p.m. at Lost Valley.

* Figures of Speech student performances, 1-2 p.m. at the Auburn Public Library.

* Jib Jam Competition, 1-3 p.m. at Lost Valley.

* Children’s snow obstacle, 1-2 p.m. at Lost Valley.

* Shovel Races, 2-3 p.m. at Lost Valley.

* Alpine race training, 1-5 p.m. at Lost Valley.

* Public skating, bonfire, hot chocolate and coffee, 2-4 p.m. at Walton Field.

* Public skating, 4-6 p.m. at Ingersol Arena, $4 students; $3 seniors

* Bonfire and sledding,  hot chocolate and s’mores, 5-8 p.m. at Lost Valley.

* $10 lift tickets at Lost Valley.

* Rock with Under the Covers, 8 p.m. at Lost Valley

* Maineiacs musical chairs, 8:30 p.m. at Lost Valley.

Sunday, Feb. 6

* Public skating, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. at Walton Field.

* $21 lift ticket at Lost Valley in honor of the area’s 50th anniversary, 2:30-8 p.m.

* Music by Nick Knowlton, 9 a.m. to close at Lost Valley.

* Downhill Mountain bike race, 9-11 a.m. at Lost Valley.

* Avalanche of mountain bikes, 11 a.m. at Lost Valley.

* Snowshoe races, noon (registration begins at 11 a.m.) at Lost Valley.

* Snow rafting rides for $2 each or three rides for $5, noon to 4 p.m. at Lost Valley.

* Slope-side barbecue, noon to 3 p.m. at Lost Valley.

* Maine Ski Challenge slalom race, 1-4 p.m. at Lost Valley, $4 registration.

* Public skating, 4 to 6 p.m. at Ingersol Arena.

* Public skating, bonfire, hot chocolate, 2-4 p.m. at Walton Field.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.