By Adam Quandt
Big Island is often left quiet throughout the long, cold winter months, but maybe not for long.
Orono City Council recently approved a trial of a temporary cross-country ski trail for public use on the island.
The idea came from a local skier and Big Island and Back organizer Rick Carter and was passed on to the council with strong recommendation from Orono’s Park Commission.
“It’d be great to get good people out there, doing good things,” Park Commission Chair Rick Meyers said.
Following the approval by the council, Carter was going to have the trail groomed by the same groomers who did the work for the annual Big Island and Back ski and snowshoe race. However, due to recent temperatures and a lack of snowfall, the event was turned into more of a voluntary, at-your-own-risk event.
The modified event also put a damper on the grooming of ski trails on Big Island.
“When and if the snow hits again, this is going to happen,” Carter said.
Carter said that ideally it would take another 10-12 inches of snow to create optimum ski trails out on the island.
However, with more snowfall comes another concern, snowmobiles. According to regulations on the island, snowmobiles are not allowed, although Carter said that those regulations do not always stop them and snowmobiles can damage the groomed ski trails rather quickly.
“I’m not sure what it’s exactly going to take, maybe some stepped up enforcement, maybe some form of barriers,” Carter said.
Carter’s vision for the trail is a single classic track winding through the woods around the island.
“You can’t find that (a single-track trail) almost anywhere these days,” Carter said. He said that most trails now are up to 10 feet wide with one or two classic tracks and a skate track.
Carter hopes to take it back to the basics by making people ski in a single file line like “back in the good old days.”
Following a hopefully successful trial of the trails on Big Island, Carter hopes that the city council can find a way to keep the trail maintained every winter for skiers to enjoy.
“For the most part people find their own way to get out there, but skiers find themselves in a little ski nirvana once they get there,” Carter said. “It is an unbelievable wild area that almost no one is ever on during the winter.”