NORWAY — Four inches of snow went a long way to keep people happy on the Roberts Farm Preserve’s trails during Christmas break.

This winter has not seen any major storms yet, but consistently mild snowfalls — buffered by one “plowable” event — was enough for Western Maine Foothills Land Trust to send out its trail groomer and establish a decent base for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, giving winter enthusiasts a place to enjoy the outdoors.

Roberts Farm volunteer David Greenleaf takes a break from trail-grooming. After a weekend of rain, the preserves trail system had to close to skiing. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

“The trails were very busy last week,” said WMFLT Executive Director Lee Dassler of the stretch between Christmas and New Year’s Day. “We have 75 to 80 sets of skis, boots and poles for skiing and the same number of snowshoes,” Dassler said. “We have opened the hut as well” for visitors who are vaccinated or are wearing a mask.

A grant from the Onion Foundation in Auburn has made it possible to staff Roberts Farm with helpers to manage the warming hut and the equipment loan program.

Matt Doughty of Norway was one of the employees on hand at the preserve last week. He was just a few days into the job of managing the ski hut and checking out equipment for visitors to use on the trails. On school vacation, his son Colin was working alongside him.

Doughty, a former construction manager, said he had been looking to leave that job behind and do something totally different.


“And I’m doing that,” he said. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. It’s a privilege to have my son work here with me.”

Colin, outfitted on skis, said that earlier in the week it was really crowded.

Colin Doughty (left) assisted his dad Matt at Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway during the Christmas vacation break. Matt Doughty is one of several seasonal employees manning the warming hut and equipment lending this winter. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

“It’s all free and open to the public,” Doughty said. “We encourage everyone to come here and check it out.”

After the weekend’s rain, Dassler said they had to close the trails to skiing so there will be no one manning the hut until there is enough snow again.

“The conditions are dangerous right now, with nothing but ice and bare spots. People can still check out snowshoes. We don’t want anyone on the trail without at least ice cleats.”

At least one new section of trail should be ready for use at the preserve this winter. Dassler added that work to build a two-mile loop from Roberts Farm to downtown Norway has continued, but is not expected to open until 2023.


“We have a program for Norway residents as well,” Dassler said. “The Norway Memorial Library has an inventory of snowshoes that library cardholders may borrow.”

Library snowshoes are available for loan on a first-come, first-served basis for up to one week. That program was also made possible through a grant from the Onion Foundation.

Dassler said even though it has been light on precipitation, everyone is pleased with how it has been going at Roberts Farm this season. The only thing they have not been able to resume is the after-school skiing program, due to the shortage of bus drivers.

All that is needed now is another helping of snow.

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