Jason Dunn, trailmaster for the Turner Ridge Riders, clears fallen trees Friday from the snowmobile trail with an electric chain saw. The club maintains over 85 miles of trails in Turner, and the recent warm weather has melted the trails and degraded conditions. The club relies on members for financial support and volunteer labor. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

TURNER — After a couple weeks of poor trail conditions, snowmobilers are eager to get out and enjoy the fresh snow from Friday’s storm.

But some Androscoggin County trailmasters are urging snowmobilers to be cautious heading out this weekend. Light, powdery snow may mask black ice underneath, creating dangerous trail conditions in some areas.

Jason Dunn, trailmaster for the Turner Ridge Riders, said he’s worried that washouts from rain and melt earlier this week, as well as debris from Wednesday’s high winds, may create some unexpected hazards on the trails.

“There will be some dangerous spots out there for sure,” he said.

Dunn went out Friday to remove fallen trees and branches from parts of Turner’s 85-mile trail system, additionally marking dangerous areas.

“It’s like we’re starting the season over again,” Dunn said. “We basically lost everything we had.”


Two weeks ago, conditions were excellent for snowmobiling, said Dave Castonguay, trailmaster for the Minot Moonshiners Snowmobile Club.

But warm weather and rain over the last two weeks melted much of the snowpack on Androscoggin County’s snowmobile trails, leading to poor conditions during what is normally peak season.

When the unseasonably warm weather moved on, icy trails were left behind.

“At that point, nobody was riding around here, because it was all ice,” Castonguay said. “So now we get this beautiful powder of snow on, which works great, but you really need to slow down, because everything under it is ice. So when you come to a corner or a hill, you can run into a situation where you have no control.”

“I just hope that the people that do go out just go out to enjoy, not race around, because it’s going to be dangerous, it really is,” he added.

Jason Dunn, trailmaster for the Turner Ridge Riders, rides his snowmobile Friday looking for fallen trees and other obstacles on the trails in Turner. The club is concerned the snowstorm will bring snowmobilers out on trails in less than ideal conditions. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Castonguay is hoping for a light rain in the next couple of days, or something that will help the powder stick to the ice.


As conditions are now, it wouldn’t be safe to take the groomer out on the trail, he said. He worries a slant in the trail could cause the machine to slide into a ditch or stream.

Ron Russell, president of the Rumford Polar Bears Snowmobile Club, said conditions were better further north.

Warmer weather and rain put a “damper on things,” he said, but the snow base in Rumford held up.

“Our trails will be rideable, there’s no doubt in my mind,” he said.

A crew went out Thursday to remove dead trees and limbs which had fallen during the high winds Wednesday night.

Still, Russell said he’s noticed the lack of snow this year.


The club is primarily funded by state reimbursements provided for grooming Rumford’s trails, he said.

Usually the club logs 200 hours on its groomer, Russell said. This year, they’ve had just over 100 hours, partly due to a slow start to the season.

Dunn said the last several years, not just this year, haven’t been good for snowmobiling. It seems like any snow that fell would last two weeks then disappear when rain rolled in.

According to his logs, just five weeks of the winter were good for snowmobiling last year. So far, they’ve had three this year, he said.

In his 30 years snowmobiling in Androscoggin County, he estimated the season should ideally last about 10 weeks from January to March.

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