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.
Dog Sledding in Maine
On Friday afternoon of last week, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders and staff of Whitefield Elementary were treated to an up close and personal sled dog demonstration.
David Farr, and his wife Darlene, gave a two-hour presentation discussing the basics of dog mushing; including proper dog care and handling, an equipment overview, and mushing terms and commands. David was also able to name every one of their 18 sled dogs!
After the kids’ had a quick lesson in the proper way to act around unfamiliar dogs, the two sled dogs-Talis and Shady-were introduced to the audience.
It was then time to take the show outside, where the kids were in for a surprise…the kids were actually going to play the part of the dog sled team, with their teachers doing the mushing! See the video links below to see how it went!
It was indeed a special treat for the kids and adults alike. A great big THANK YOU to Dave and Darlene for sharing their love of the sport of dog mushing with us!
If you’d like a chance experience dog sledding, you can find Dave and Darlene at the Windsor Fair Grounds, February 13th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Annual Sleigh Rally (http://windsorhistorical.org/gpage13.html). They can be reached at email@example.com with any inquiries.
Volunteering at Me. Handicapped Skiing
I volunteer at Maine Handicapped Skiing in At Sunday River, and that is just an inspiration to work with their participants. Believe it or not I was up there on Monday 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 and sure enough it was open! I ran into a guy in the locker room getting changed and the first thing he said to me was “Quite a heat wave out there isn’t it?” I laughed and Isaid ?Yeah down right BALMY? and little did I know he was who I would work with that day, and he was gung ho to be out there and having fun. With the exception of the sub zero temps with a little breeze the conditions were phenomenal, nice snow and blue bird 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. Volunteering or activities diverts your attention from the norm and unties you from work and forces you to focus on something else which is being people for others and 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!