Winter fun in Maine
Maine’s High Peaks Region
Feel the excitement as you ascend the peaks by chairlift, snowmobile or on foot. This is the land of adventures, where there’s no such thing as too much fun or too much snow!
Search for an adrenaline rush in the Brackett Basin Glades and double black diamond trails at Sugarloaf, share stories and laughs around the fire as you wait for a bite while ice fishing, or explore the region’s rich heritage and miles of trails.
The Mountain View Motel on Carrabassett Road in Stratton is an “outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.” Owned and operated by Mark and Cindy Rollins, each cozy room is more like a cabin in the woods than a motel room. All of the rooms have a fully-equipped kitchen, private bath and are pet-friendly. Enjoy sunrises and views of Cranberry Peak as you sip your morning coffee before heading out to explore.
At Flagstaff Fuel on Main Street in Stratton, you’ll find gas and diesel and a whole lot more. Located just off the snowmobile trail for easy access, the convenience store has 24/7 fuel pumps and features pizzas, subs, deli meats and unique specials. They also have coffee and an extensive wine and beer selection. But wait, there’s more–here you’ll find novelty items including sweatshirts, candles, Maine honey and maple syrup, plus other Maine novelties.
At Fotter’s Market and Hardware on Main Street in Stratton, you can purchase everything from groceries, meats and produce, beer and wine, plus soups and meals to go, to tools, hardware and propane. Locally-made items include Sugarloaf birdfeeders. And while you’re here, ask for Grammie Elva’s Famous No-Bake Cookie Recipe.
When you are on Main Street in Stratton, think about breakfast or lunch at the Looney Moose Cafe. Open seven days a week, this is the place for a delicious home-cooked meal. Looking for comfort food–how about warming up with a cup of Jamie’s famous chili and a grilled cheese sandwich?
The Carrabassett Valley Antigravity Complex at the base of Sugarloaf is operated by the Town of Carrabassett and Carrabassett Valley Academy. This recreation complex features Maine’s largest indoor skate park and skate bowl, Olympic-size trampolines, an indoor rock climbing wall, full-court gymnasium and fitness room. Classes and private lessons are offered and reservations are required for the trampolines and climbing wall.
After a day of the skiing or riding on the snowmobile trails, you’ll be ready for a giant Wolf burger or some other down-home cooking entree from the menu at the White Wolf Inn and Restaurant. Be sure to save room for an incredible dessert. There’s also a pub in which to relax while enjoying a Maine microbrew or Newcastle Brown Ale. And when dreamland calls, there are pet-friendly rooms where you can catch a few zzzzzzs.
Tucked into the trees at 3004 Town Line Road, Carrabassett Valley, is Nestlewood Inn Bed & Breakfast. This elegantly furnished log cabin lodge offers seven cozy guest rooms, each with a private bath and all with woodland views. You’ll be conveniently located near Sugarloaf, yet just off the beaten path. After your day-long outdoor adventures, warm up by the field stone fireplace in the Great Room as you sip a cup of tea.
Experiencing Acadia on Snowshoes
by Joe Zentner
Eerie calm and cheery cold. Two winter trademarks of Acadia National Park. Recently my wife and I experienced the snowy white peaks of Maine illuminated by pink dawns and golden sunsets. We tramped on snowshoes where the only tracks in evidence were those of an occasional moose.
During wintertime, Acadia National Park attracts hardy visitors to come to cross country ski and snowshoe on Mount Desert Island. The winds whip mightily around pines, firs and birches. The French name “Isles des Monts Desert” means “island of barren mountains.”
As man has provided Mount Desert Island with a romanticized history, so nature has created a unique island of extraordinary wilderness beauty. Here one finds mountains, lakes, sea and estuaries, all within tramping distance of one another.
Cadillac Mountain is well worth exploring on snowshoes. We stood on the summit of Cadillac, alone, in a world of penetrating silence, set with brilliant winter white. The softly moving vapor clouds of our own breath made the only motion. The view from the summit looking toward the Atlantic Ocean is one of the most beautiful to be found in any national park.
In the purity of their cold truths, winters here are a reaffirmation of life; they do not still it, provided you’re in good physical condition. In cold, there is a keen realization that blood flows if you keep moving; the heart beats and sinews stretch. True, there is some risk involved in cross-country hiking when it’s bitter cold, but such risk celebrates an awareness of the miracle of life.
Why Wear Alpaca?
by Leigh Macmillen Hayes
Alpacas are bred for their fiber, which is often referred to as “the fiber of the Gods” due to the luxurious qualities. Alpaca fiber is soft, lightweight, water and oil resistant, and is considered to be hypoallergenic. Unlike sheep’s wool, alpaca fiber has no lanolin or oils that cause itch. You can wear alpaca directly on your skin without causing any irritation. Alpaca fiber is very fine. This is what makes such soft, lightweight yarns for knitting into beautiful garments. You’ll get five times the warmth of sheep’s wool, without carrying around any of the extra weight.
Alpaca fiber apparel is good choice for winter wear, providing superb warmth and comfort to you while you enjoy all your outdoor activities. Similar to the properties of SmartWool, alpaca fiber draws moisture away from your skin. Unlike SmartWool, alpaca fiber is completely natural and requires no harsh chemicals to clean or treat the fiber. Our store is packed with winter wear and fashionable garments. Each item is made with domestic fiber. Many of our pieces are hand crafted and one-of-a-kind.
In addition to clothing and accessories, the fiber can be used for pillows, curtains, and blankets. Recognizing all the beneficial characteristics of alpaca fiber, the North American fiber industry is growing and expanding its use of it in many ways.
Helpful Family Skiing Tips
By Robert Martin
Navigating one of Maine’s ski resorts for the first time can be a daunting task. Add in a spouse and a few children and one can easily be overwhelmed. Just getting your family’s equipment to the lodge can be a nightmare if you are not unfamiliar with these behemoths. Then there is a question of what to bring along when visiting a mountain as a family. Whether it is a big ski resort like Sugarloaf with 154 trails or a family mountain like Black Mountain with just 15 trails, know before you go.
My wife and I found many unknowns and challenges a few years ago as we were beginning to ski Maine as a family of 5. Our first trips were very disorganized and stressful. Whether it was trying to feed the whole family, figuring out where to park, or trying to keep track of everyone’s equipment – it all seemed to conspire to rob us of valuable slope time. Eventually we learned from our mistakes and figured out just what to bring and how to plan for our ski trip.
First of all was the way that we prepared for our ski trips. Waking the kids, searching for their equipment, trying to get them dressed warmly, making a decent breakfast, then get the car loaded wasn’t working at all. We always seemed to leave something behind, whether it was ski boots for this one or gloves for that one. Getting to the mountain without items such as ski boots or gloves was costly. Our remedy was to purchase everyone their own ski boot bag. For instance, our boot bags are made by High Sierra and Swix. This allowed us to keep similar sized items separate and accounted for. Our very first task starts the night before a trip to the slopes. We pack our bags with dry ski boots, gloves, goggles, helmet, face mask, heating pouches, and warm extra clothing for layering.
With our boots and bags checked and packed, we try to decide on snacks and easy to stow foods for lunch. For storing drinks and snacks we use a smaller portable cooler on wheels for easy transport to the lodge. These simple items like a soda can cost $4.00 at the resort. This can add up quick when buying for the whole family. We try to compromise and let the kids purchase something warm from the cafeteria in addition to the drinks and snacks we have brought along with us.
If time allows, we like to prepare breakfast the night before to afford us some extra time in the morning to pack up the car (or the truck if it is snowing). We bought a cargo carrier to house our gear and to keep the road salts off our skis and poles. The cargo box allowed us to open up enough space to keep our boots in the cab of the vehicle where they stay warm on bitter cold mornings. We try to feed the family a breakfast that will sustain them until noon which gives us maximum slope time. Getting the kids in and out of the lodge during the day and back up on to the mountain can chew up a hefty chunk of slope time. We found that during the long ride to a mountain like Saddleback if we try to snack as a supplement to breakfast that we wouldn’t need to return to the lodge in the first half of the day.
As a rule, the bigger the resort, the earlier we arrive. If lifts at Sunday River open at 8:00 AM, we are there by 7:00 AM at the latest. “Early arrival times allows us easy parking and time in the lodge to dress the kids in their equipment and use the restrooms.The sacrifice is well worth being able to ski the freshly groomed slopes before they get bumped up.” Another reason to arrive early is to ensure that we find cubby space to store our unused items for the day all in one area. Sometimes personal space is at a premium in ski lodges. Finding a space where the whole family can gather and suit up can be impossible if it’s a busy day.
Choosing which mountain to ski on a particular day can also be a challenge. Conditions and crowds dictate our choice. In general, as unpopular with the resort ownership it may be, we avoid the big mountains on peak attendance days such as holidays and weekends. Trying to watch out for the kids where trails merge on days when there are 8,500 other skiers on the slopes can be terrifying. We try to minimize the risks of skiing heavily crowded trails by choosing smaller resorts like, Mount Abram or Black Mountain during peak attendance days. If we must ski the big resorts on a busy day we focus on trails serviced by high speed lifts to give us maximum slope time. We try to balance our day out by making a few quick runs followed by a longer run on a family cruiser. Allow the kids to help select trails to keep their interest. Don’t be afraid to ask ski patrollers about trail conditions, they will be more than happy make recommendations for your family.
Winter Horseback Riding
Let’s hear it for Carousel Horse Farm in Casco for an incredible outdoor Maine adventure on horseback! My one hour scenic trail ride through open fields and wooded areas was a quintessential experience for a first time rider, like myself. I felt lively and safe riding Rockette, a twenty-four year old black and white spotted female, who seemed to know the trail inside and out. Her coat struck me the moment I saw her, as I could not help but think how she resembled a dalmatian. The company of this sweet four-legged friend, and picturesque view of Mount Washington joined together to create an unforgettable trip. I would prefer this experience over a crowded amusement park any day – an ideal combination of relaxation and excitement!
The trail guide lead on her horse, assisting in mounting, body positioning, holding the reins, leaving and arriving at the hitching post, stopping and turning the horse, and dismounting. I learned just the basics, but it was all new to me. After the trail ride, we lined up the horses so that each one could return to the hitching post. The horse who had been behind me throughout the ride, unexpectedly, rubbed the side of his head against my leg. It was a lovely surprise! Perhaps, for him it was just an itch, but I have always had a deep love and appreciation for animals, and this just confirmed my newest adoration–horses!
To schedule your guided trail ride, beach ride, sunset ride, or snowshoe ride at Carousel Horse Farm, call Tiffany at (207) 627-4471. You can also visit their website: www.maine-horse-trails.com for additional ride and service details.
Winter Surfing in Maine
by Leigh Macmillen Hayes
Yankees are a hearty bunch, and for Mainers, winter surfing is not just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. Dedicated surfers wait all summer for the fall surf to roll in and the beach crowds to thin out. Among them are the real estate agents, web designers, financial planners, carpenters and students. When the swell is pumping, the fanatics shed their clothes (often standing barefoot on snowy sidewalks and streets), encase themselves from head to toe in rubber, leaving only their faces exposed–which are quite accustomed to cold–and jump in the water.
Just as skiers and riders look toward their local mountains for the first Nor’ Easter to bring snow, surfers are counting the days until the first big storm to bring waves. When everyone else is driving to the mountains to go skiing or snowboarding, Surfers are traveling to the coast in wetsuits looking for the right spot to go out in the snowstorm. You know when you are truly passionate about a sport when you’re willing to track through knee-deep snow, 20 degree air temperatures and the water is a balmy 34 degrees.
When the water is cold, it’s like pudding and when you get a beat down, you go down. However, technology today makes it bearable. Comfortable even. The wetsuit technology continually makes improvements in leaps and bounds.
If you are a surfer and would like to learn more about winter gear requirements, conditions and advice, keep reading about the surf shops that Activity Maine works with. Aquaholics Surf Shop in Kennebunk and Maine Surfer’s Union in Portland, will have recommendations based upon your needs and skill level.
Maine Surfers Union is located on the 2nd floor on 36 Market St in Portland’s Old Port. They have everything you need to get in the water this winter, from winter wetsuits, gloves, booties and a very impressive selection of surfboards and paddleboards for beginners to the most seasoned vet with some of the most competitive prices around. They also have products for the non-surfers in the family with year round clothing lines for men and women from O’Neill, Patagonia, Rip Curl, LiveME and many more. The nice thing about MSU is the owner is at the shop everyday and most likely he’s the one you will be speaking with. You will see the true passion he has for the sport and making sure that every customer finds what they are looking for and leaves with a smile on their face. MSU is the recipient of Portland Buy Local Indie Biz Awards Best New Business for 2013.
Aquaholics Surf shop in Kennebunk is open year round. We have the largest selection of women’s and wetsuit sizes in Maine. We carry all of the major brands and we pride ourselves in having what you need, when you need it. We wear everything we sell and we consider it our job to share our knowledge and opinions about the gear we carry. We teach year round, so if you’re interested in trying surfing and you consider yourself radical enough to jump in, we’d be glad to feed your dementia. We also rent equipment appropriate for the water temperatures and conditions, so if you happen to be in town when there’s a swell and you didn’t bring your gear, come on down and suit up, grab a board and paddle out.
If you happen to be in town on a Tuesday morning, join us for “Mom’s Morning,” a free program that focuses on getting the girls out for a splash, but we let the guys join in the fun. Call ahead to be surf the conditions are favorable.
Oh, and if you’re in own for a visit and your hotel has a hot tub or heated pool and you forgot your swimwear, don’t worry, we carry swimwear year round, drop in for a look around, you’ll like what you see.
Endless Adventures in March!
- Titcomb Mountain in Farmington, known as the “friendliest mountain around”, offers 16 alpine trails, as well as beautiful nordic cross country trails, for all skill levels. You can expect a fun and an affordable trip to Titcomb Mountain whether you’re a beginner or expert on the slopes. Upcoming events: Saturday, March 9 – Downhill Dummy – feel free to make your dummy to enter in this fun competition; Sunday, March 10 – The Old Gheezer Cup – a fun race for anyone, young or old, take your turn in the famous Otterslide gates
- Bethel Chamber is your source for a Maine vacation in the western mountains. You’ll find great deals on lodging, shopping, restaurants, skiing, and more. The Western Maine Fly Fishing Expo on Saturday, March 23 at the Bethel Inn Resort Conference Center exhibits guides, sporting camps, wildlife artists, gear manufacturers and retailers, learn-to seminars, door prizes, and an evening film festival.
- Jackman Snowmobiling – The Jackman area offer some of the best snowmobiling opportunities in the Northeast. Known as the Switzerland of Maine, Jackman offers an extensive well groomed and maintained trail system that you can access from most lodging facilities in the area.
- Mahoosuc Guide Service in Newry is a small family run business with over 20 years of experience, offering dogsledding, canoeing, and Northern Native culture trips. Their philosophy is to respect and accept the wilderness, not compete against it. With native guides and traditional equipment, Mahoosuc Guide Service offers a unique wilderness experience for all levels of experience.
- Quimby House Inn in Bar Harbor offers quaint rooms at affordable rates. A downeast getaway with a spa package and no crowds might be just what you need this month.
Maine pond hockey – a favorite Maine winter activity!
Well, our backyards may be void of snow, but the backyard skating is just PERFECT right now! Enjoy our photos of one the best Maine winter activities: Pond hockey.
Maine Dogsledding: an unforgettable winter adventure
One of life’s great adventures awaits you. Consider gliding through the northwoods behind a team of sled dogs. Tuck yourself into a warm sled and enjoy the majestic winter wilderness on a truly unique journey. Listen to the swish of the sled runners and the panting dogs. Try your hand standing behind the sled to guide the team. You’ll have breathtaking views of mountains, lakes and wooded trails, plus a good chance of seeing wildlife or signs that wildlife is present, as an expert guide and a team of dogs take you through the western Maine wilderness.
Maine dogsledding becomes more popular every year as people discover the sport and realize you don’t need to be in Alaska or the Yukon to do it. There are many possibilities right here in Maine. You can dogsled recreationally or professionally, either racing or guiding.
At Mahoosuc Guide Services, we raise Yukon huskies, originally bred in the Yukon Territory to pull toboggans in deep, soft, snow conditions. Our huskies are well cared for on a 24/7 basis and return all the love we lavish on them. They get us outdoors, keep us focused on a goal, whether conditioning and training a team for trips or a race, and keep us in good physical shape with the exercise it requires to care for them properly.
Dogsledding is one of the most exciting yet peaceful ways to travel in the winter. The dogs’ enthusiasm to pull is contagious to the musher, yet the peaceful serenity of the surrounding nature takes you back to a nearly primeval feeling of closeness to the land and bond between humans and animals working together. Their lovable personalities will quickly win your heart. In no time, you’ll discover it is an addictive sport for both animal lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Having grown up in South China, Maine, and spent years in Alaska and the Yukon Territory, I learned to mush dogs in the bush. I chose to return to Maine and run guided trips in the Umbagog Lake and Mahoosuc Mountain areas in order to share this opportunity with other people. Some clients get “hooked” on the sport and purchase their own dogs to start a team, while others join us for a yearly trip to experience that thrill of standing on the runners.
Guided trips may last for 20 minutes, a full day, an overnight or for multiple days. At Mahoosuc Guide Service, we’ll provide you with all of the equipment you need from food to specialized winter gear such as skis, poles, boots, parkas, gaiters, sleeping bags and an ensolite ground pad, for a fun and comfortable experience. All we ask is that you are in good physical shape because it is challenging, and that you wear warm clothing and bring along a sense of adventure. If you haven’t tried it, get out and experience a dog sled ride; we guarantee you won’t be disappointed! f
Polly Mahoney and Kevin Slater own and operate Mahoosuc Guide Service of Newry in the western mountains of Maine.
Dogsledding in Maine
You don’t have to go to Alaska to mush dogs, you can plan your dogsledding adventure in Maine! There are many recreational mushers, racers and now more people are offering rides and tours throughout Maine. Many different types of dogs will pull sleds but it is in the breeding of huskies to want to run and pull. They LOVE their work!
Owning sled dogs is a huge commitment as they, like children, require a lot of time and want as much attention as you can give them and even more. Each dog has their own personality with feelings, moods and needs, just like people. Owning sled dogs isn’t for everyone as the care is 24/7 and the expense is huge. But it is also one of the most thrilling and unforgettable experiences one can have in their lives. The close connection one can have with dogs and nature is something that is hard to get anywhere.
Hooking up a team of huskies can be deafening with the excited barking and noise that is created but once you pull the knot of the tied up sled and are heading down the trail it is silent except for the panting dogs and sound of the dogsled runners on the snow. It is an experience that will stay with you forever!
People use different size teams depending on what they are doing but the minimum is usually three and can go upwards from there. There are different positions of the dogs in the team. The leader is in the front and the most important dog in having the team operate smoothly. They learn to hold the line tight so the dogs behind don’t get tangled, verbal commands are used for turning left and right and some mushers have their leaders trained to turn their teams totally around to go a different direction. Swing dogs run behind the leaders, team dogs in the middle and wheel dogs in front of the sled. The wheel dogs tend to be bigger, stronger dogs.
Tighten Up! Let’s Go! Those are the words the dogs LOVE to hear and we love to say before we pull the knot and head down the trail. Their enthusiasm is contagious!
At Mahoosuc they raise their dogs from puppies and keep them until they pass on. The level of care and commitment they have to our dogs is immense. In the summer they have pastures they run in daily to keep in shape and keep away boredom. Once they retire they move into our daylight basement and enjoy soft beds, no bugs, no blizzards and easy listening music on the radio. Our dogs’ lineage came from the Yukon Territory in Canada where Polly lived a subsistence lifestyle for 10 years with her dogs. They were featured in a couple movies; the Walt Disney Classic: Never Cry Wolf and Death Hunt with Charles Bronson. Safety is our number one concern on our trips. We don’t take the “thrills and spills” approach to mushing. Our clients and the dogs safety is paramount.
Mahoosuc offers day trips and fully outfitted overnight trips varying in length from 2 – 10 days in length. Our trips are as hands on as the client would like. Some people like to be a passenger in the sled, others want to handle a team alone, others like to go on a sled with a guide.
On the overnight trips people are camping in the luxury of traditional canvas wall tents heated by portable woodstoves and fir boughs as the floor. Everyone can enjoy warm hearty meals, close camaraderie and the occasional contented howl from the huskies right outside the tents.
Song in the Woods customized dogsled trips are designed with input from the customer so they get the kind of trip they feel suits them. We are a small kennel and strive to help people have a memorable trip that is safe and affordable. Our trips range from ½ day adventures to multi-day expeditions with a variety of lodging options. We operate mostly in the Moosehead Lake region but have also traveled to other area’s for colleges, schools and festivals.
There are lots of dogsledding adventure outfitters on Maine. In Rangeley, two options Activity Maine uncovered are: 1) MorningSong Wilderness Tours has day trips that include lunch that meet at 9 am at the Ecopelagicon Nature Store and returns by 4. Afternoon and evening tours meet at 2pm and you will enjoy supper on the trail and return by headlamp or moonlight. Grab some friends and have some fun! For more information on this outfit visit their facebook page: MorningSong Wilderness Tours LLC.
And 2) Rangeley Sled Dog Aventures you can drive the sled or just ride along. See the mountains as very few have ever seen them on picturesque trails. Warmth and safety are of the utmost importance. Hot drinks, fresh snacks, and a camaraderie between human and canine are just some of the
highlights. FMI visit rangeleydogsled.com
2012 Maine Lakes Mushers Bowl
Each year the Maine Lakes Mushers Bowl, sponsored by the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce continues to grow and add more activities to its list of fun events. The two day event will be held this year on January 21st and 22nd in Bridgton. The main events are the sled dog races and skijoring competition held both days at Five Fields Farm in South Bridgton.
Members of the Down East Sled Dog club compete for title points with the races sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association. The race course at Five Field Farm is considered one of the most challenging on the circuit and offers excellent viewing opportunities. In addition to the races there is a series of guided snow shoe hikes up nearby Bald Pate Mountain.
The other main venue is at Highland Lake Beach in downtown Bridgton. Here a number of fun family events are ongoing throughout Saturday and Sunday. The very popular sled dog rides on Highland Lake are always booked in advance and offer the riders a chance to experience the thrill and excitement of riding behind a team of sled dogs. Other outdoor activities include horse drawn wagon rides, ice fishing contests for youngsters which include all the necessary equipment and bait, free snowmobile rides, and a nature walk through Pondicherry Park led by a Lakes Environmental member. The highlight on Saturday is the ever popular “Freezin for a Reason, where hundreds of people from all ages jump into the lake to raise money for Harvest Hills Animal Shelter.
Not all the events are outdoors and there are plenty of things to do inside. From pancake breakfasts, chowder fests, and baked bean suppers, to a very competitive table tennis tournament and a less stressful Dodge Ball Massacre, there are lots of events for everyone. On Saturday night the historic Bridgton Town Hall comes to life with a dance complete with live music and the crowning of the Carnival King and Queen.
The Maine Lakes Mushers Bowl is affordable fun for the whole family. For more information visit www.mainelakesmushersbowl.com or call the Chamber office at 647-3472.
Volunteering at Maine Handicapped Skiing
I volunteer at Maine Handicapped Skiing at Sunday River. It is just an inspiration to work with their participants. Believe it or not, I was up there on the coldest day in two years. I drove all the way up there and wasn’t even sure if it was cancelled or not. Sure enough, it was open! I ran into a guy getting changed in the locker room, and the first thing he said to me was “Quite a heat wave out there isn’t it?” I laughed and said “Yeah, downright BALMY!” Little did I know it was he that I would work with that day. He was gung-ho to be out there having fun. With the exception of the sub-zero temps with a little breeze, the conditions were phenomenal — nice snow and bluebird skies. We would take a few runs and take a break and do few runs and take a break, all day. He taught me a lot actually. But volunteering there is special to me because I get to combine two loves of mine: sports medicine and snowboarding to help other people. Volunteer activities divert your attention from the norm, unties you from work, and forces you to focus on something else — in this case, it’s helping others. That just feels good in so many ways!
Epic sledding party!
As most parents know, it can be challenging to plan a winter birthday party, let alone a super awesome one! We were fortunate enough to have outstanding snow conditions to pull off a fun-filled sledding party.
The two golden rules of large groups of kids: have something fun to do outside, and have tons of food! In this case, I think the hot chocolate was the star of the show.
The sledding hill is also an important component. We are lucky to have a great hill, that also happens to be on the local snowmobile route. That means “free trail grooming!” We had some epic wipeouts, with the only casualty being an orange sled (that reportedly had a crack in it to begin with..)
As a parent who has two kiddos with winter-time birthdays, the sledding party was a super fun option that left everyone happy, tired, and rosy-cheeked!