Work on the Can-Am Crown race trails will be organized and directed by the Trail Boss, Dennis Cyr. Be sure to contact Dennis before doing trail work. He can be reached by telephone at 834-3862 or by e-mail at

The work of removing fallen trees, clipping brush, and opening new trails begins in some accessible areas before snow falls, but work begins in earnest as soon as water crossings are safely frozen and snowmobiling is possible.

The sooner brush can be removed from the bases of the trails, the better. If work is delayed until the snow is deep, then a late winter thaw or settling can expose the spear-like stubs and make the trail dangerous for sled dogs. If you are cutting brush in deep snow, try to cut well below the surface.

Clean up junk at former bridge sites. Build or repair bridges where possible. All bridges should be 8 feet wide. Check bridges between Allagash and Fort Kent in particular. In November, make sure that all slotted bridges are covered with plywood, aspenite, or canvas so they hold snow all winter and so that dogs’ feet won’t fall through the cracks. (Aspenite from Fort Kent Ski-Doo’s snowmobile crates can be used.) Make sure that there are no staples or nails sticking up on the surface.

Here are some pointers for those who would like to help with grooming:.

 a. Use snowmobiles to pack the trails after every snowstorm and as frequently as possible. A very firm base helps to prevent a punchy trail during warming weather. Also, run drags over the trails as soon as possible and as often as possible. It’s easier to maintain a smooth trail if the base layer is smooth. Note: Go slowly when pulling a drag in areas where you could snag a stump. The driver tends to keep going at the same speed after the snowmobile comes to an abrupt stop!

b. As soon as the ice is safe, be sure to keep lake crossings well-packed throughout the winter. This helps to expose slush, which freezes, makes the ice thicker and stronger, and raises the trail above other surface water.

c. Wide-track snowmobiles are much preferred for packing trails. A dogsled will not fit in the rut of a narrow-track snowmobile, which can destroy a trail in one pass, especially in a thawing and refreezing situation. A frozen, narrow track is a curse to mushers!

d. When packing trails, don’t simply follow directly in the track of leading snowmobiles. Work to widen the packed area so there is plenty of room for passing and so that you won’t get stuck in deep, unpacked snow later when the track might be concealed by another snowstorm.

e. Avoid “jackrabbit” starts with your snowmobile unless you are pulling a drag. A slipping track churns up a pile of snow behind the machine and eventually results in a rough roller coaster trail.

f. Begin grooming the 20-mile training loop as soon as Wheelock Lake is safely frozen. January 1st is usually safe. Grooming and trail work can be done as far as Wheelock Lake before it’s frozen.

g. Open up trails every weekend. Straighten trails where feasible if ok with landowner. Avoid sharp turns, esp. on downhill sections. A 12-dog team plus sled is loooooong!!

h. All trails must be groomed during February. When practical, leave drags near trails. Leave a drag at South Branch Birch River and one at Portage (Portage has one drag already).

For those volunteers who set signs along the race course, here are some rules of thumb:

a. Use red markers for turns, green for straightaways. First red turn sign should be placed approximately 200 feet before a turn (on the same side as the turn), with another placed at the turn. Follow by 2 green signs on right side after the turn.

b. Sign all fields ASAP. Keep track as straight as possible and sign it immediately so that groomers stay on the same track. Put signs on both sides of track across lakes or open fields. Set them in pairs about 10 feet apart every 200 feet or so.

c. Wherever the race runs on snowmobile trails or roads, place a marker on the right side every ½ mile to reassure mushers that they are on the right trail.

d. The numbered red paw-print signs are used for marking parking spots for teams at the race start. Numbers correspond to bib numbers.

e. Mileage (to the finish) signs should be placed at the 30, 20, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1-mile locations. Note: One mile from the finish, mushers are not required to slow down and give up the trail to a passing team.

Immediately after the races, there will still be plenty to do:

Pick up barricade trailers at Main Street start and take to summer storage. Repair all barricades.

Collect trail signs and road signs. Separate broken ones from good ones.

Sort through all the start signs and put them on appropriate trailers. Sort red and green trail markers separately and place in storage. Sort and store instructional signs.

Store all equipment: sleds, drags, groomers, and rescue sled. Return all Can-Am trailers to storage building.

Wednesday: Collect all signs, leftover musher equipment, garbage, and wastes left at Lonesome Pine. Clean up yard and used straw bales. Return whole bales to Guimond Farm.

Finish placing all signs into storage.Repair signs. Check reflectors. Build more signs. Paint and reflectorize PVC coilstock during warm weather.

Dennis Cyr