CARIBOU, Maine — As sure as this winter will bring a blanket of snow, the seasonal influx of snowmobilers is right around the corner and members of the Caribou Snowmobile Club are working hard to ensure that sledders are met with the fantastic riding conditions they’ve come to expect in and around Caribou.
Owner of DoDo’s Market, a convenience store and gas station right off of the snowmobile trail ITS90 in Caribou, Russell Levesque hears quite a bit about the trails from sledders who come through his doors.
“They tell me most of the time that Caribou has the best trails in the area,” Levesque said. Wherever the riders had originated their travels, Levesque hears about how the sledders knew they’d arrived in Caribou because of how nice the trails are.
Although it’s common knowledge for sledders that “Caribou” is almost synonymous with “great snowmobiling trails,” many overlook the effort that goes into maintaining Caribou’s 100-mile chunk of The County’s tourist-drawing trail network.
“Good trails don’t happen by themselves overnight,” said Vice President of the Caribou Snowmobile Club Bob Kerber during the group’s Nov. 14 work meeting. “It takes a lot of work, and a lot of manpower, and that’s why we need help to keep our trail system [maintained] — we have one of the best in The County.”
Club officials had hoped for a 15-20 person turnout during the work meeting, and were pleased with the 13-man crew that showed up to lend a hand in sprucing up the club’s signage. Painting, sorting, cutting and sawing, there’s a lot of work to be done even before the snow falls.
“We’ll put a good dent into it tonight, but I know there’s going to be more nights required,” Kerber said, adding that the group would probably need to meet weekly until mid-December to get everything ready to go.
Like many other volunteer-dependent organizations in the region, the Caribou Snowmobile Club is facing a shortage of members and an even smaller amount of younger members.
“Unfortunately, we have an older clientele,” Levesque said, “and we’re looking for a younger clientele.”
But what happens if the Caribou snowmobile club’s memberships dwindle too low to function?
“I wouldn’t want to go there,” Kerber said.
Before Kerber and his wife, Marilyn, moved up to Caribou in 2004, they would travel to The County three times a year for nearly a decade to sled Aroostook’s pristine trails.
“When you get out on these trails in the winter, you’re going to see things, scenery, that you can’t see otherwise. And it’s just fabulous,” Kerber emphasized with a grin that showed his enthusiasm for sledding.
In the unparalleled world of Aroostook sledding, Caribou is uniquely situated to afford snowmobilers even greater adventure.
“From Caribou, you can ride north, south, east and west and you can come back in the afternoon a different way than you went out in the morning — and in many places you’re not able to do that,” Kerber said.
Kerber also said that whether or not area residents snowmobile, the sport is good for Caribou and the whole county and cited a recent magazine survey that ranked Aroostook County as sledders’ fifth favorite place to ride.
Levesque, who lent a hand at the Nov. 14 meeting, said being a club member and chipping in when needed helps to support the local economy by maintaining the nice trails that county tourists are looking for — and tourists mean income for area businesses.
“We encourage anyone who is interested in snowmobiling to join a club,” Kerber said. Membership is $30 a year and in return for that annual fee, club members receive nine monthly issues of the Maine Snowmobile Association, a $3,500 accidental death and dismemberment insurance, “and the camaraderie of other local sledders,” Kerber said.
The Caribou Snowmobile Club members will be holding an open house at Plourde and Plourde, located at 11 Laurette Street, on Saturday, Nov. 30.
“We’re going to be there all day, come on down and talk to us,” Kerber added.
If people can’t make the open house, Levesque encourages anyone interested in joining the club to give him a call at 469-0341. Additional information can also be found on the Caribou Snowmobile Club’s Facebook page.