Winter Tourism: Part I

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MILLINOCKET, Maine (WABI) - Those who enjoy the cold weather know that there is a lot to do when winter comes to Maine.

Snowmobiling is one of the biggest draws and the sheer number of riders out on the trail helps drive the economy across the state.

“Winter Tourism is the winter business that is so important for all of the hotels in town, all of the gas stations in town, and the restaurants that choose to stay open year round,” says Ailsh Keating, Director of Marketing for New England Outdoor Center in Millinocket.

NEOC welcomes hundreds of tourists every year to enjoy their snow mobile trails, fishing, and lodging. The incoming business helps the town during the cold season.

“There's several business that rent snowmobiles that have lodging, food so you can come for the entire weekend, you can come for a day,” says Wende Sairio, Director of the Millinocket Chamber of Commerce. “We put out a snowmobile map for the region so people have an idea of how to get to one area to another all the way from Brownville to Shin Pond.”

“For the most part, the first week and second week in January may be quieter but by the third week in January people are ready to come and we will have people here riding until the first week in April,” says Keating.

Snowmobile trails are interconnected throughout the entire state. This creates a network for businesses who often share clients traveling long distances on their sleds.

“You can go to Canada, you can go to New Hampshire, you can travel across the state or you can stay locally and you can ride your snowmobile for a couple hundred miles a day if you feel,” says Keating. “When people come to snowmobile, they come to a location and travel. They will come from these other communities to us for lunch and then they will go back to where they were. So you've got this whole circular traffic and it's really, really critical and this is why the clubs work so well together for all of the clubs and all of the businesses.”

Many snowmobile clubs and resorts will help to maintain trails throughout the winter to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride. Towns also work together to inform everyone about the conditions. The idea is that when more people are out on their sleds, everyone succeeds.

“On our webpage, we post this is what the trails are like, this is where you might want to watch out, this is what's going on,” says Sairio. “We work very closely with, like, Aroostook but even in places south to say 'okay, so you can go from Newport all the way up to Houlton on a snowmobile.”

Keating says, “Snowmobiling is critical to an area like this and is very much welcome and appreciated and essential. You wouldn't have business at this moment in time without that for sure.”

The high traffic in snowmobiles often leads to an increase in other winter activates around the region. Mainers want everyone to know that the fun in Vacationland doesn’t stop after summer ends.

“People do think of it more as summer and hiking but there is so much more to do and a lot of people would rather be here for the winter,” says Sairio. “I think we're working on building that up and including more historical kinds of things so that you can come any time of year and there's always something to do.”