FORT KENT, Maine — The Maine Winter Sports Center isn’t just for winter anymore.
With the last of this winter’s snow melting away and the sighting of the season’s first black flies, outdoor enthusiasts are planning outdoor activities from organized races on land and rivers to bike rides to skills sessions.
“One of the tenets of the Maine Winter Sports Center’s mission statements is the re-establishment of skiing as a lifestyle in Maine,” Mark Shea. said. “A big part of that is trying to empower communities to embrace an active lifestyle year-round.”
Shea is the newly appointed marketing manager at Big Rock Ski Area but still works promoting events with Maine Winter Sports.
“We look for those certain events that sort of have a statewide appeal we can help to promote,” he said. “We love it when people come to Aroostook County to visit but we also understand there are great things going on around the state and people from The County can check these things out in other parts of Maine.”
It’s all about water sports today with the Third Annual Kiwanis Aroostook River Races which kicked off at 8 a.m. from the public boat landing in Ashland and ends 30 miles downriver in Presque Isle.
Paddling is one fourth of the East Grand Adventure Race that takes off from the East Grand High School in Danforth at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Participants first use a compass to navigate a 1.5-mile trek before taking on a nine-mile mountain bike ride on woods roads and trails in addition to canoeing nine miles on Baskahegan Stream. The course finishes back at the high school on the climbing wall in the East Grand School gymnasium. Visit www.eastgrandschool.org for more information.
For a less competitive day on Saturday, cyclists can head over to the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle for Momentum Aroostook’s Mountain Bike Ride starting at 9 a.m.
Momentum Aroostook members Jason Ennis and Renee Ennis will lead a mountain bike ride geared to all abilities.
The center has a limited number of bicycles available for rent, but participants are advised to show up in the parking lot with a bike, gear and water. Check out www.momentumaroostook.com for more information.
After all that riding, any bike would need some TLC and on May 15, the Nordic Heritage Center is planning a trail and bike tuneup day.
Volunteers can come out to help clear and establish trails and participate in a seminar on trail maintenance and design followed by group ride and bike tuneup clinic. For information contact Mike Smith at 207-227-0250.
Also on the May 15th, Cory Snow, a teacher at South Portland High School, will introduce Maine teens to the sport of “regaining” in which teams of two or three use maps, compasses and GPS devices to find as many checkpoints as possible in a specified time.
Snow spent the last school year in New Zealand where the sport is popular with teams traveling on foot where terrain can vary from open ledges to narrow trails.
Snow has organized a race at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownell just for high school students with the Teens to Trails Maine Adventure Race. Complete information can be found at www.t3race.wordpress.com.
It’s back to the water on May 22, with the Aroostook River Fun Run starting at 10 a.m. at Thomas Brewer Park in Washburn.
The course runs 8 miles to Presque Isle and the day includes a mountain bike wildlife poker run. Course and registration information is available from Gretchen Morse at 207-764-0802.
Wrapping May up is a wildflower walk on Sunday, May 23, at Bell Forest in Woodstock, New Brunswick, and hosted by the Meduxnekeag River Association. Information is available on their website at www.meduxnekeag.org.
While most of the events are competitive, Shea stressed the ultimate goal is just getting outside and participating.
“Any person or group that organizes a race is doing it out of an interest in getting more people in their sport,” Shea said. “That’s why a lot of the events have a sort of fun race component to them [and] the competition isn’t the ultimate award, participating is.”