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Saturday's snow was a welcome sight for Maine's outdoor winter sports industry

A record number of Mainer's explored the outdoors this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, winter sports are expecting a similar turnout if weather permits

BETHEL, Maine — Some of us woke up to snow Saturday morning and others did not. Some were happy to see flakes and others were not.

Few people are more excited to see snow again than the staff at Inland Woods + Trails in Bethel. 

"We woke up this morning and our groomers were calling me like, we’re ready to go,"  Events and Marketing Director Sarah Weafer said. 

The mission of the non-profit organization is to connect communities through well-groomed and maintained trails that can be used year-round.

“We have 25 kilometers of cross-country ski trails and about eight miles of single-track trails, for fat biking and snowshoeing," Weafer added.

The outdoor sports industry saw an increase in folks exploring their own backyards this summer as the coronavirus pandemic forced closures on nearly everything besides the great outdoors.

In the summer, Mainers were hiking, kayaking, and ATV riding like never before, and even before the entire state is covered with snow, that trend is looking to continue into 2021.

“Sales for cross-country ski packages are unprecedented and some places are reporting increases of 400-percent," Weafer added. “You can’t buy (snowshoes) online, it’s pretty crazy, there are a lot of people outside which is great.”

Credit: NCM

A few inches of snow will make any cross-country skier happy, but other winter lovers still need to wait for more snow before they can start their engines. Maine's snowmobile trails are renowned around the Northeast when there's enough snow to ride them.

“That rain we had on Christmas really abolished everything," Maine Snowmobile Association Vice President Alan Swett said. “I think we’re going to have a good year once Mother Nature decides to help us out.”

Swett added many retailers of sleds are already sold out or down to their last few models until more inventory comes. 

The recent warm weather and wind damage are keeping snowmobile clubs busy repairing trails before they can be ready to use. Even when trails for all winter sports are fully operational it may be busy.

Credit: NCM

Weafer said her staff has been working with the Cross-Country Ski Areas Association to prepare for this pandemic season. 

"(Its) projections for increases started at looking forward to seeing a 25-percent increase in skiers and now they’re looking at more like, you know, you could expect a 100-percent increase.”

Although safety is a big concern this year, especially with more riders, Weafer is confident skiers and riders will spread out on the trails or wear masks when possible.

Another sport waiting to kick into peak season is ice fishing. Some lakes and ponds are frozen enough, but others are not.

“For me, I want to see four inches before I would even bring my kids out," Micah Kelly, the Maine Ice Fishing Facebook Page Administrator said. 

He added he traditionally starts ice fishing on New Year's Day or earlier when possible, but this year the warm weather delayed the opening cast of the season.

Saturday's storm brought some snow to the state and the only thing winter enthusiasts are thinking about now is when's the next one?

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