ORONO, Maine — After a nearly decade-long hiatus, the Caribou Bog Ski Race is making a comeback this year.
The annual race, started by the Penobscot Valley Ski Club in 1984, has welcomed skiers of all abilities to compete in a trail race through the Caribou bog.
But it seemed to have disappeared after 2011.
“It’s been around a while,” said Dan Baumert of Levant, a club member who is helping to coordinate this year’s race.
An avid skier himself, Baumert championed for the club to bring back the event, which drew hundreds of skiers to the Penobscot region every year.
“A lot of people remembered the race … it was a pretty popular local event,” Baumert said.
The race seemed to lose its momentum over time after its lead coordinator moved away and the club struggled to keep it going. Unpredictable weather also threw a wrench into the planning every year, too.
About half of the races have been postponed or canceled in previous years because of poor or dangerous weather conditions, Baumert said. While warmer weather in mid-January may spark a glimmer of hope for an early spring for some Mainers, it’s a blow to the skiers who look forward to the yearly race.
The bog usually needs a couple of feet of snow in order to be skiable, Baumert said. Without enough snow on the ground, hosting the race becomes more unpredictable — but this year, the club is changing things up.
“This year, we’ve made it simpler,” he said.
Baumert said the trail will begin on a pond along Taylor Road in Orono and loop back to the same area, but skiers won’t go through the bog because not all of the trails are maintained — although it’s not out of the question for future races.
“In future years, we would like to incorporate the bog again because that was such a unique part of it,” he said.
In the past, skiers would start out on Essex Street in Bangor, making their way to Veazie and through Forest Avenue into the Orono bog before crossing Taylor Road to the trails underneath Interstate 95.
When they finished, racers would end up around Bennoch Road in Old Town, where they would gather for a post-race meal. However, the trail varied year to year, Baumert said.
“There were numerous versions of the race, it never followed the same course.”
To simplify the event, the club has also eliminated a lot of the logistical troubles of the race like arranging buses to shuttle skiers from the finish line back to the Essex Street starting place.
“That really makes it convenient and a lot easier to manage. That really takes away a lot of the headaches,” said Baumert.
In keeping with tradition, the club is trying to secure somewhere local for the skiers to gather after they finish the race. In previous years, members of the Penobscot Valley Ski Club organized the race, handed out awards and planned the potluck meal.
This year’s race will be shorter than in the past because of limited access to public trails, according to Baumert. The upcoming event will feature three races: one long, 10-kilometer course, a shorter 5-kilometer and a 1-kilometer youth race.
“In its heyday, the longest course was 19 kilometers,” he said.
Looking ahead, Baumert and the club are hoping for another good storm to allow the best trail conditions for racers.
“They [the club] are excited about it,” he said. “We just need a little more snow.”
The race is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8, with Feb. 29 as a back-up date. Skiers can register online at pvskiclub.org or on the day of the race.