The Complete Maine Winter Planner
Eeeyhaa! The Farmer's Almanac says Maine is in the crosshairs this year for a serious dumping of snow. And after last year's sno
The Farmer's Almanac says Maine is in the crosshairs this year for a serious dumping of snow. And after last year's snow drought, don't we deserve a little extra serving of the white stuff? Luckily, Maine is one of the best winter playgrounds in the East. The state's two largest ski areas offer enough terrain to keep any snowboarder or skier satisfied all season, while the scores of smaller downhill areas make for a relaxing, laid-back skiing experience that's becoming increasingly hard to find.The Pine Tree State is also home to hundreds of miles of Nordic tracks and backcountry trails. Finally, when you're looking to kick back with a refreshing drink or else just take in the spellbinding winter sky, we've got you covered. Who knows: winter in Maine may just turn out to be your favorite time of year.
Downhill Ski Areas
Maine is not Vail. It's also not Aspen, Park City, or Zermatt; in many ways it's better. With scores of extreme downhill skiing terrain, a couple of top-notch snowboard parks, and some of the best, most low-key (and low-priced!) ski areas this side of the Mississippi, the Pine Tree State in winter offers plenty of thrills for skiers and shredders. Here's the most up-to-date list of Maine's downhill ski areas, arranged alphabetically by town, to help you decide where to try this season.
Lost Valley, Auburn
Vertical drop: 240 feet.
Trails: 6 most difficult, 5 moderate difficulty, 6 beginner.
Lifts: 2 double chairs, 1 T-bar.
Snowmaking: 100% top to bottom.
Other amenities: night skiing, ski school, rentals, day, half-day, night, and hourly tickets, cafeteria, lounge, Nordic skiing, retail shop, and a terrain park. 207-784-1561. www.lostvalleyski.com
Sunday River, Bethel
Vertical drop: 2,340 feet.
Trails: 40 most difficult, 46 moderate difficulty, 42 beginner.
Lifts: 9 quad chairs (4 high-speed), 4 triple chairs, 2 double chairs, 3 handle tows.
Snowmaking: 92% top to bottom.
Other amenities: eight mountains, ski school, ski shops, rentals, three base lodges, summit lodge, restaurants, child care, nearby Nordic skiing, and snowboard park. 207-824-3000. www.sundayriver.com
Shawnee Peak, Bridgton
Vertical drop: 1,300 feet.
Trails: 14 most difficult, 23 moderate difficulty, 7 beginner.
Lifts: 3 triple chairs, 1 quad chair, 1 surface carpet lift.
Snowmaking: 99% top to bottom.
Other amenities: night skiing, ski school, ski shop, rentals, two cafeterias, restaurant, child care, nearby Nordic skiing, terrain park, halfpipe, and snowboarding. 207-647-8444. www.shawneepeak.com
Camden Snow Bowl, Camden
Vertical drop: 850 feet.
Trails: 2 most difficult, 7 moderate difficulty, 2 beginner.
Lifts: 1 double chair, 2 T-bars, 1 handle tow.
Snowmaking: 50% top to bottom.
Other amenities: night skiing, ski school, rentals, half-day tickets, cafeteria, skating, and a toboggan chute. 207-236-3438. www.camdensnowbowl.com
Lonesome Pine Trails, Fort Kent
Vertical drop: 500 feet.
Trails: 5 most difficult, 7 moderate difficulty, 1 beginner.
Lifts: 1 T-bar, 1 J-bar.
Other amenities: night skiing, ski school, lodge, and café. 207-834-5202.
Big Squaw Mountain, Greenville
Vertical drop: 1,750 feet.
Trails: 7 most difficult, 12 moderate difficulty, 8 beginner, 6 glade trails.
Lifts: 1 triple chair, 1 double chair, 1 handle tow.
Snowmaking: 70% top to bottom.
Other amenities: ski school, ski shop, rentals, cafeteria, and restaurant. 207-695-1000. www.bigsquawmountain.com
New Hermon Mountain, Hermon
Vertical drop: 350 feet.
Trails: 7 most difficult, 7 moderate difficulty, 6 beginner.
Lifts: 1 double chair, 1 T-bar.
Snowmaking: 100% top to bottom.
Other amenities: night skiing, ski school, rentals, half-day tickets, cafeteria, lift-serviced tubing park that is five hundred feet long, and nearby Nordic skiing. 207- 848-5192. www.skihermonmountain.com
Vertical drop: 2,820 feet.
Trails: 58 most difficult, 40 moderate difficulty, 35 beginner.
Lifts: 4 quad chairs (2 high-speed), 1 triple chair, 8 double chairs, 1 T-bar.
Snowmaking: 95% top to bottom.
Other amenities: ski school, ski shops, alpine village with shops and restaurants, on-mountain lodging, child care, Nordic skiing, and a snowboard park. 207-237-6808. www.sugarloaf.com
Mount Jefferson, Lee
Vertical drop: 430 feet.
Trails: 3 most difficult, 6 moderate difficulty, 3 beginner.
Lifts: 2 T-bars, 1 rope tow.
Other amenities: ski school, rentals, and a cafeteria. 207-738-2377.
Mount Abram, Locke Mills
Vertical drop: 1,030 feet.
Trails: 9 most difficult, 16 moderate difficulty, 11 beginner.
Lifts: 2 double chairs, 3 surface lifts.
Snowmaking: 80% top to bottom.
Other amenities: night skiing, ski school, ski shop, rentals, half-day tickets, lodging affiliates, cafeteria, child care, restaurant and lounge, tubing, NASTAR racing, and nearby Nordic skiing. 207-875-5000. www.skimtabram.com
Big Rock Ski Area, Mars Hill
Vertical drop: 980 feet.
Trails: 5 most difficult, 6 moderate difficulty, 5 beginner.
Lifts: 1 double chair, 1 handle lift, 1 poma, 1 triple chair, and 1 majic carpet.
Snowmaking: 65% top to bottom.
Other amenities: night skiing, ski school, rentals, and a snack-food bar.
Quoggy Jo Community Alpine Area, Presque Isle
Vertical drop: 215 feet.
Trails: 3 moderate difficulty, 2 easy.
Lifts: 1 T-bar. 207-764-3248.
Vertical drop: 2,000 feet.
Trails: 5 expert only, 15 most difficult, 18 moderate difficulty, 19 beginner.
Lifts: 2 double chairs, 2 T-bars, 1 quad chair.
Snowmaking: 85% top to bottom.
Other amenities: Ski Learning and Coaching Center, ski shop, rentals, on-mountain lodging, child care, food court, pub, Nordic skiing, terrain park, and snowboarding. 207-864-5671. www.saddlebackmaine.com
Black Mountain of Maine, Rumford
Vertical drop: 1,120 feet.
Trails: 9 most difficult, 7 moderate difficulty, 5 beginner.
Lifts: 2 T-bars, triple chair, double chair.
Snowmaking: 85% top to bottom.
Other amenities: 14,000 square-foot day lodge, museum, cafeteria, lounge, rental shop, ski school, night skiing, paved parking lot, cross-country trails. 207-364-8977. www.skiblackmtnofme.org
Eaton Mountain, Skowhegan
Vertical drop: 622 feet.
Trails: 6 most difficult, 7 moderate difficulty, 5 beginner.
Lifts: 1 double chair, 1 T-bar.
Snowmaking: 100% top to bottom.
Other amenities: night skiing, ski school, ski and snowboard rentals, day, half-day, and evening tickets, cafeteria, lounge, and a snowboard park. 207-474-2666. www.eatonmountain.com
Titcomb Mountain, West Farmington
Vertical drop: 340 feet.
Trails: 8 most difficult, 5 moderate difficulty, 4 beginner.
Lifts: 2 T-bars, 1 handle tow.
Snowmaking: 75% top to bottom.
Other amenities: night skiing, ski school, ski shop, rentals, base lodge, and Nordic trails. 207-778-9031. www.titcombmountain.com
For up-to-the-minute ski conditions, call SkiMaine's hotline at 207-773-7669, or check out its Web site at www.skimaine.com
Nordic Ski Centers
Mainers have long enjoyed virtually unlimited cross-country skiing both in backyards and in the backcountry. In recent years, though, many skiers have been smitten with the smooth groomed trail systems at ski centers, golf courses, and even on farms across the state. Here are a few, arranged alphabetically by town, to consider:
Bethel Inn Ski Touring Center, Bethel
Forty kilometers of groomed trails. 207-824-6276.
Carter's Cross-Country Ski Center, Bethel
Fifty-five kilometers of groomed trails. 207-539-4848.
Five Fields Farm, Bridgton
Twenty-seven kilometers of groomed trails. 207-647-2425.
Sugarloaf/USA Outdoor Center, Carrabassett Valley
105 kilometers of groomed trails. 207-237-6808.
Chesuncook Lake House, Chesuncook
Forty-five kilometers of groomed trails; hundred miles of ungroomed wilderness trails. 207-745-5330. www.chesuncooklakehouse.com
Harris Farm Cross-Country Ski Center, Dayton
Forty kilometers of groomed trails. 207-499-2678. www.harrisfarm.com
The Inn on Winter's Hill, Kingfield
Trails link the inn to quality groomed snowmobile trails maintained in the town. 800-233-9687.
Millinocket Municipal Cross-Country Ski Area, Millinocket
Thirty-two kilometers of groomed trails; extensive backcountry.
A Fierce Chase Cross-Country Ski Trails, Monson
Twenty kilometers of groomed trails. 207-997-3971.
Pineland Farms, New Gloucester
Twenty-seven kilometers of professionally designed and well-maintained trails for novice, intermediate, and advanced skiers with more than five thousand acres of beautiful woodlands and fields. 207-688-4539. www.pinelandfarms.org
Sunday River Cross-Country Ski Center, Newry
Forty kilometers of groomed trails. 207-824-2410.
Carter's Cross-Country Ski Center and Shop, Oxford
Thirty-five kilometers of groomed trails. 207-539-4848.
Rangeley Lakes Cross-Country Ski Trails, Rangeley
Seventy-five kilometers of groomed trails; extensive backcountry.
Birches Ski Touring Center, Rockwood
Forty kilometers of groomed trails; fifty kilometers of ungroomed trails.
Black Mountain of Maine Touring Center, Rumford
Seventeen kilometers of groomed trails. 207-364-8977.
McDougal Orchards Ski Trails, Springvale
Eighteen kilometers of groomed trails. 207-324-5054. www.mcdougalorchards.com
Smiling Hill Farm, Westbrook
Thirty-four kilometers of groomed trails. 207-775-4818.
Titcomb Mountain Ski Touring Center, West Farmington
Twenty kilometers of groomed trails; upper intermediate trails serviced by alpine lift. 207-778-9031. www.titcombmountain.com
For additional information visit the Maine Nordic Ski Council's Web site (www.mnsc.com ), or contact a local chamber of commerce.
For those who want to down a few ounces of suds after their day on the slopes, Maine is home to several brewpubs that craft their own pilsners, lagers, bocks, and weizens. Most also serve up some great pub grub if you've worked up an appetite during your day skiing, shredding, or shopping. Here is a sampler of eateries, organized alphabetically by town, where you can savor the best that the Pine Tree State has to offer when it comes to homemade brews. If you want to sample beers from dozens of Maine breweries all under one roof, you'll need to visit the Portland Expo on November 4 for the annual Maine Brewers' Festival. Visit www.mainebrew.com for more information.
Sea Dog Brewing Company, Bangor
Consider the view of the Penobscot River and the scores of historic photographs lining the walls bonuses as you sample the handcrafted brews at the Sea Dog's brewpub in downtown Bangor (207-947-8009) or stop by the company's other location in Topsham (207-725-0162). www.seadogbrewing.com
Jack Russell's Brewpub and Beer Garden, Bar Harbor
Have the folks at Jack Russell's pull a Maine Coast Eden Porter for you and then take a brisk stroll through the delightfully deserted downtown. 207-288-4914.
Sunday River Brewing Company, Bethel
You may just find your ski tales becoming steeper and more unbelievable as you sample some of the signature cold brews in this brewpub just outside Bethel. 207-824-4253.
Granary Brew Pub, Farmington
Housed in an old granary, this brewpub serves the Narrow Gauge Brewing Company's beers. A good spot to linger over an Iron Rail Ale, the brewery's flagship ale, if your après-ski plans involve a show at the University of Maine at Farmington. 207-779-0710.
Federal Jack's Restaurant and Brewpub, Kennebunk
The phrase here is "brew with a view," since this eatery overlooks the Kennebunk River and serves up beers by Shipyard Brewing Company. It has proven to be a winning combination. 207-967-4322.
Bray's Brew Pub, Naples
Popular in Greater Sebago, Bray's brews fine ales in an old Victorian farmhouse. You can also lunch on hearty New England fare before heading out onto the slopes. 207-693-6806. www.braysbrewpub.com
Bear Brew Pub, Orono
Have a pint at this collegial pub and then take in a show at the Maine Center for the Arts. A perfect combination of spirits. 207-866-2739.
Gritty McDuff's Brewing Company, Portland
With pubs in Portland (207-772-2739), Freeport (207-865-4321), and Auburn (207-376-2739), Gritty's has become a Maine favorite. Try the Halloween Ale or knock back a pint of the dark masterpiece, Black Fly Stout. www.grittys.com
Sebago Brewing Company, South Portland
You'll find the Sebago Brewing Company serving up fresh ales at three locations: the Maine Mall in South Portland (207-879-2537), Middle Street in the Old Port (207-775-2337), and on Elm Street in Gorham (208-839-2337). www.sebagobrewing.com
The Forks Restaurant, The Forks
You can relive last summer's rafting adventures while enjoying one of the Kennebec River Brewery's handcrafted beers. The restaurant is open this year until November 28, but will reopen on December 30. 207-663-4466.
One of the biggest secrets in Maine is that the "off" season can be the best time to pay the state a visit. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than at the state's parks and public lands — you often have them all to yourself, there are no bugs, and the beauty of these scenic spots is only magnified by the snow and the unique winter light. The following locales offer plenty of room for snow-sport activities.
Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Allagash
Backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in one of the state's most famous recreation areas. 207-941-4014.
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor
Thirty-three miles of Nordic skiing on carriage roads, trails, and the Loop Road. Snowshoeing and snowmobiling on much of the Loop Road. 207-288-3338.
Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, Baring
Forty miles of unplowed roads for cross-country skiing. 207-454-3521.
Camden Hills State Park, Camden
Twenty miles of cross-country trails, snowmobiling, snowshoeing. 207-236-0849.
Crescent Beach State Park, Cape Elizabeth
Cross-country skiing and hiking on paths under a canopy of snow-covered evergreen boughs. Places to park on Route 77.
Sebago Lake State Park, Casco/Naples
Six miles of cross-country trails and also ungroomed snowmobiling trails. 207-693-6231.
Bigelow Preserve, Dead River Township
Backcountry skiing and snowmobiling on 36,000 acres, day-use lodge, and twenty miles of designated trails. 207-778-8231.
Cobscook Bay State Park, Dennysville
Four miles of cross-country ski trails, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and camping with permission from manager. 207-726-4412.
Peaks-Kenny State Park, Dover-Foxcroft
Cross-country skiing and hiking. 207-941-4014.
Lamoine State Park, Ellsworth
Cross-country skiing or hiking. 207-941-4014.
Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park, Freeport
Five miles of trails for cross-country skiing, hiking, or snowshoeing. 207-624-6080.
Lily Bay State Park, Greenville
Several miles of unplowed roads for backcountry skiing and snowmobiling. 207-941-4014.
Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park, Harborside
Ten miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 207-326-4012.
Damariscotta Lake State park, Jefferson
Cross-country skiing. 207-941-4014.
Lake St. George State Park, Liberty
Snowmobile trails and cross-country skiing. 207-589-4255.
Tanglewood 4-H Camp, Lincolnville
Ten miles of cross-country trails. 207-789-5868.
Baxter State Park, Millinocket
Backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, ice-climbing, and winter camping on 204,000 acres. Snowmobiling on tote road only. 207-723-5140.
Dodge Point, Newcastle
Five miles of cross-country trails on popular public land holding. 207-778-8231.
Grafton Notch State Park, Newry
Cross-country skiing and a snowmobile trail that is maintained by a local snowmobile club. 207-624-6080.
Range Pond State Park, Poland Spring
Cross-country skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing on a two-mile trail. 207-624-6080.
Bradbury Mountain State Park, Pownal
Three miles of cross-country trails; snowshoeing. 207-688-4712.
Aroostook State Park, Presque Isle
Fourteen miles of groomed trails, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. 207- 768-8341.
Rangeley Lake State Park, Rangeley
One mile of groomed snowmobiling trails, plus cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling. 207-624-6080.
Ferry Beach State Park, Saco
Cross-country skiing, hiking, or just strolling. 207-624-6080.
Moose Point State Park, Searsport
Cross-country skiing and hiking on the park's trails. 207- 941-4014.
Vaughan Woods State Park, South Berwick
Six miles of cross-country trails. 207-624-6080.
Mount Blue State Park, Weld
Thirty-five miles of groomed snowmobiling trails, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and an ice rink. $1 fee. 207-585-2261.
White Mountain National Forest, West Bethel
Thousands of miles of trails for skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing.
For more information on cross-country skiing and snowmobiling opportunities in the parks, call the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands at 207-287-3821 or visit its Web site at www.state.me.us/doc/parks/programs/db_search/index.html
Where to Stargaze
You're not alone if find yourself staring at the night sky in November and December. (Let's face it, there's just so much more night.) The cold air seems to bring every star into focus, and Mainers who have been out straight keeping up with the busy summer and fall seasons often find themselves studying the constellations above. The Pine Tree State is blessed that way; unlike some of our more urbanized neighbors, we don't have the extensive light pollution problems that most eastern states do. Practically anyplace in Maine where there isn't a streetlight will suffice as an adequate spot to survey the skies. Of course, some prospects are better than others. You may need to put on an extra layer of fleece or lace up your hiking boots to reach a few of these prime stargazing spots, but it'll be worth the trek. Stargazing clubs offer a great opportunity to meet other people with their heads stuck in the clouds (or even beyond); visit the Astronomical Society of Northern New England at www.asnne.org for more information.
Caterpillar Hill, Sedgwick
Famous for its summertime prospect — the great blue expanse of Penobscot Bay and its many islands — Caterpillar Hill also offers an unobstructed and spectacular look at the stars above the water. The view is especially dazzling in winter, and you hardly need to get out of your car.
The small isle has little electric power and few outside lights, and the stars above all but reach down and grab you. Best of all, you'll probably have the island practically to yourself.
Mount Battie, Camden
The popular midcoast mountain, all eight hundred feet of it, is closer to the heavens than the town below — and therefore there's less atmosphere to peer through. In the off-season you can walk to the top on the auto road and see forever.
Mount Agamenticus, York
Another well-loved peak among astronomers, Mount Agamenticus is the site of star parties for the Astronomical Society of Northern New England because the view is so good.
The remote village along Chesuncook Lake has few distractions at night — and an amazing view of the cosmos above Mount Katahdin.
Sailors once used the constellations to navigate, and from a boat in Casco Bay it's quite clear why. The clarity of the stars on a still night on the water is breathtaking — though cold in the winter. Try a ferry.
If it's too cloudy to study the heavens from your favorite vantage point, visit Aroostook County, where you'll find the largest three-dimensional scale model of the solar system in America. It stretches forty miles from the Sun in Presque Isle to Pluto in Houlton. (In Maine, at least, Pluto's place is secure, even if people from away have decided it's no longer a planet.)
Any one of them (see page 136L for a few) is good for a nighttime spectacular. Try Bradbury Mountain in Greater Portland or Lily Bay in Greenville.