Sledding the County - MSA President

Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 1:47 PM EDT
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With the snow slowly melting and the riding season coming to an end, NewsSource8′s Brian Bouchard spoke with the President of the Maine Snowmobile Association to see how the season went, what they’ve been working on in Augusta and an issue that’s concerning snowmobile clubs throughout the state. It’s the focus of this week’s Sledding the County.

“You know, we had some good snow, good cold weather there in late fall and then it turned right on to rain again.”

Al Swett, President of the Maine Snowmobile Association says a series of unseasonably warm stretches may have contributed to a slightly less successful snowmobile season.

“I think we were off quite a bit, I think the registrations were about average but I still think, compared to last year we’re probably off a little bit because of the weather and when the weather started people were anxiously getting into the town offices and online registering their sleds but I’ve got a bad feeling it’s not as good as it was last year.”

Despite the later than hoped start, Aroostook County’s trails drew in riders from across the country.

“I rode up their last weekend actually and it was excellent, you know there was some late season stuff but it was great! It always is when we go up there it’s terrific, those people, every one of those clubs know how to do it and get it done and they’ve got the longest season so that’s where everybody’s going.”

Swett went on to talk about the Association’s efforts with the legislature to address a longstanding issue that threatens the livelihood of the State Trail System.

“Landowners are our top priority, I mean, they mean everything to us. Over 90% of our trails are on private landowners. We’re working on a bill right now to eliminate people riding off trail. If there’s a sign that says “Please stay on marked trail, no admittance in this area, tree plantation, new growth” anything like that, we’re working on a bill right now that’s really going to take effect and get people to stay on the trail, it’s a big thing and unfortunately there’s going to be a big fine with that because it’s all about the landowners. If we don’t have them we’re out of business.”

2022 to 2023 marked a particularly fatal season for snowmobilers. 10 deadly crashes, twice as many as last year.

“They need to slow down, don’t drink and drive, they need to stay on the right side of the trail. A lot of people are just oblivious of what a snowmobile can do. You get so comfortable on these new snowmobiles, they’re phenomenal, the new sleds are just incredible and now they’ve got all these new gadgets on them so people are playing with their gadgets as their running their sled. Next thing you know, they blow a stop sign and that can be a fatal, fatal, fatal situation.”

Swett says one of the best things snowmobile riders can do to help keep snowmobiling alive and well in the state is to join and be active with your local club.

Brian Bouchard, NewsSource8