Maine’s Unparalleled Winter Beauty
Reprinted courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
MAINE — Few experiences rival the splendor and contentment of settling by the fireside while snow softly falls outside — except, possibly, the thrill of being in it, of catapulting across the snow on skis, sleds, or behind a swiftly trotting passel of dogs.
Maine is the place to be in winter, filled with adventure, good value and such loveliness that you’ll long to return for a more extended sojourn.
For those whom winter means skiing, Maine has four major downhill areas. Sunday River in Bethel (www.sundayriver.com) offers 127 trails over eight interconnected mountains. At Sugarloaf/USA’s (www.sugarloaf.com) 129 trails you can set out high above the tree line. Skiers at Big Squaw Mountain (www.bigsquawmountain.com) can see across the frozen expanse of Moosehead Lake to Big and Little Spencer and Mount Kineo. Now under new ownership, Saddleback (www.saddlebackmaine.com) in Rangeley has seen many improvements this past year including a new base lodge, a new quad chairlift and nine new or extended trails.
There are many other small hills as well, offering a relaxed, friendly atmosphere to families out for a daylong excursion (www.skimaine.com).
But skiing is not only downhill. Cross-country adventurers will be amazed at the expanse of beauty and quiet found on the state’s many groomed trails. Outside Bethel, the Telemark Inn assures visitors a wilderness cross-country experience by limiting visitor passes. Like other Maine lodges, Telemark provides a multi-textured winter experience, with guided snowshoe treks to waterfalls and beaver dams, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and skating by lantern and bonfire. Here, too, you can experience the thrill of skijouring. That’s like dogsledding, only without the sled. The dogs pull you directly on skis (www.telemarkinn.com).
For an even more rustic experience, visit Little Lyford’s century-old cabins in Maine’s great north woods. Access here is by dogsled, plane, skis or snowshoes, or a snowmobile pickup can be arranged. Ski or snowshoe from your cabin along the Pleasant River to Gulf Hagas, Maine’s grand canyon, then return to hearty meals (www.littlelyford.com).
Looking for even more winter immersion? Try the Newry-based Mahoosuc Guide Service’s dog sled adventure. Even those with no background in winter techniques can safely join an unforgettable overnight dog sled excursion, staying the night in a wood-heated tent (www.mahoosuc.com).
The less pure may prefer to snowmobile over the more than 10,000 miles of groomed trails in Maine. Best of all, many are served by well-placed lodges. The New England Outdoor Center (www.neoc.com) and Northern Outdoors (www.northernoutdoors.com) join more than a dozen outfits offering sled rentals, making it possible for visitors to head out for an hour or a week (www.sledmaine.com).
Of course, winter in Maine is not only about intense adventure. There’s ice fishing and skating, too. Kids are often happiest simply playing outdoors, sled in one hand snowball in the other and Maine’s relaxed hills and strong communities provide many a great sliding spot. For the ultimate sledding experience, however, visit the Camden Snowbowl’s 400-foot-long toboggan chute. Whether child or adult, you’ll be screaming all the way down (www.camdensnowbowl.com).
But don’t miss the quiet moments. Browse the stores of Camden and Rockland, then visit the exquisite Farnsworth Art Museum. Spend a fun afternoon in the elegance of Portland’s Old Port, take in a play, or dine in some of the finest restaurants in the nation.
To learn more about the beauty and excitement of winter in Maine, visit the Maine Office of Tourism’s Web site at www.visitmaine.com, or call 1-888-95-MAINE.