RUMFORD — A week of steady rain and warm weather has left several snowmobile clubs in the River Valley area hoping for another big snowstorm.

Bob Stickney, treasurer of the Rumford Polar Bears Snowmobile Club, said their trails were marginal, at best, before a week that saw “a lot of rain, freezing rain and fluctuating temperatures.

“After the rain, it’s not going to get any better,” Stickney said. “People can still ride on the trails, but they’re very bony right now. There are lots of rocks and stumps to tread around. I’m sure that the snow will eventually come around, so all we can do until then is keep everything groomed and deal with some of the poor riding conditions.”

However, grooming trails inundated with rain is easier said than done, Stickney said.

“When the trails get slushy, it becomes practically impossible to groom with the drag,” Stickney said. “We can still use the packing devices, but when you pack, it follows the contours of the ground. It doesn’t smooth out the trails the way the groomers do.”

Andover Snow Valley Sno-Goers Snowmobile Club Trailmaster Harold Hutchins said a majority of the trails in the Andover trail system had no base to work with.

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“Once you get into the higher elevations, it’s pretty decent, but for the most part, we’re bare bones,” Hutchins said.

Hutchins said when there is a long period of rain, the groomers can usually pull snow from either side of the trail and groom it once it freezes.

“We’re at the point where there’s not even enough snow on the sides of the trails to spread over the main part of the trail,” Hutchins said. “I would say people can ride on the trails if they want, but there are a lot of rocky places, and I don’t expect it to get better until we get more snow. It won’t take much to beat the trails up.”

Conditions were not much better in Mexico, where Nick Brown, president of the Mexico Trailblazers Snowmobile Club, said there are a large number of washouts and water bars on the trails.

“I think we’re in the same boat that Rumford is in,” Brown said. “The trails are rideable, but there’s a lot of space out there that needs to be filled in, and this rain is not helping matters.”

Brown suggested to riders that they use plenty of caution if they ride on the trails in Mexico.

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David Berry, trailmaster for the Poodunck Snowmobile Club in Dixfield, summed up Dixfield’s trail woes in three words: “We need snow.”

“I have a brand new sled, and I wouldn’t even want to touch any of those trails until we get a lot more snow,” Berry said. “If people want to beat the hell out of their sleds, they can use the trails — but at this point, we can’t touch them.”

The Slippery Sliders Snowmobile Club in Roxbury and Byron said in a recent trail report that its trail system had a couple of trouble spots and that trails in Byron had a few holes in them.

“Another storm of 6 to 8 inches would really make a big difference right now, but there is still riding that can be done,” the report said. “Just pay attention to trail conditions.”

Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club Trailmaster Lee Libby said, despite the rain, “we have a great base, and our groomers have been working in full force since December.”

With weather forecasts in the River Valley region calling for no snow over the next five days, “hope” remains the operative word within the area snowmobile clubs.

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“All we can do is hope at this point,” Hutchins said with a laugh. “Mother Nature plays funny games with us sometimes. I know last year, the snow was slow coming, and once we got it, the trails were great, but I can only remember one or two winters like this in the past 10 years. We just have to sit and wait right now.”

Brown said the snowmobiling season typically doesn’t kick in until the second or third week of January.

“I think there’s still plenty of snow to look forward to,” Brown said.

Stickney said he’s optimistic that more snowfall and colder weather is on the horizon.

“We still have two-and-a-half months left,” Stickney said. “That leaves us plenty of time to get a little snowfall and build up our trails again.”

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