Snow sports at the University of Maine at Farmington

Get Your Outdoors On at UMF

As the 2020/2021 season has unfolded in a time of uncertainty, the UMaine Farmington snow sports teams have been prepared. The snow sports program consists of three different disciplines: Alpine, Freeride, and Nordic. All programs begin early, with dryland training for the Alpine Team; aerial sessions for the Freeride Team, and for the Nordic Team, miles of practice to get into shape for the winter sport they love.

The Alpine Team

Photo: Braden Brothers

UMaine Farmington snow sports participate in the Reynolds Division as a part of the United States Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association and normally compete all around Maine and in New England against many other Division II & III schools. Although UMF’s teams on average are smaller than most, they are a force to be reckoned with. What they lack in team numbers, they make up for in dedication and on-hill talent.

At the beginning of the season, I spoke with Shawn Russell, the university’s freeride/snowboard coach. He explained why athletes choose to pursue their collegiate career at UMaine Farmington. “In my opinion, we have the best venue in the northeast, with Sugarloaf and Sunday River resorts close by, Saddleback reopening, and Titcomb Mountain minutes from campus,” he said. “The access is unmatched.” The snow sports coaches are geared up to provide for athletes amidst this season of uncertainty. “I can promise that we will make it the best season that we possibly can,” said Russell. 

The geographic location of UMaine Farmington immerses its students in the heart of Maine’s western mountains. Nestled in the small town of Farmington, the snow sports teams are in reach of world-class destinations. For any snow sports athlete, it is easy to fall in love with this region of Maine while earning an affordable education. 

UMaine Farmington has seen its fair share of success throughout history: podium finishes, trips to national events, and graduates earning positions in the snow sports world post-graduation. The university had established a plethora of knowledgeable and inspiring coaches who are focused and determined to provide all athletes with the opportunity to compete on a local, regional, and national level. 

Sam Scheff, a UMaine Farmington senior and the captain of the Freeride/Snowboard Team, has already had the opportunity to compete in regional and national competitions through the Team. In his sophomore year, he earned the chance to join a select few in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he competed in his first national competitions. “Being on the Freeride Team is about representing the university,” said Scheff. “The best part is forming relationships with like-minded people, and the on-hill and academic support from the great coaches here at UMaine Farmington.” 

The UMaine Farmington Alpine Team is headed by coach Andrew Willihan. In the past several years with the UMaine Farmington program, Willihan has rebuilt the Team to regional and national standards. Those who want to compete at a collegiate level ought to consider UMaine Farmington, according to Willihan. “The right choice is based on being able to gain a high-quality education for unbeatable value, while training and racing at the best resorts in the northeast,” he said. “For any skier who wants to be treated with the respect that matches their dedication to the sport, you cannot find an athletic department and team that can do what we do.”

— Story by Avery Boucher, Activity Maine’s Fall/Winter Outdoor Media Content internship student from the University of Maine Farmington

Get outdoors and stay active this winter

XC Skiing: A Fun Way to Get Active

Check out this Activities Guide of Maine video production by our UMaine Farmington intern, Avery Boucher

Check out this Activities Guide of Maine production by our UMaine Farmington intern, Avery Boucher

Cross-country skiing is an activity that all abilities can take part in as it is as intensive as you make it. Whether you are looking to go out for a casual stroll or pack on the miles, XC skiing is a great way to get some outdoor exercise safely. “If you have never XC skied before, don’t worry, neither had I,” said Boucher. “With a group of friends, we were able to have some good laughs and spills, but by the end of the day, we all had it down and can’t wait for our next time out.”

As the weather has been unseasonably warm this winter, take advantage and go to your local rental shop and pick up a pair of XC skis or dust off that old pair of skis that have been sitting in the basement for way too long. With a quick online search, you can locate a rental shop and trails near you and be out on the trails in no time.

With Maine’s abundant, beautiful scenery it is no labored task to get outdoors and stay active.

We’ll see you out there!


Explore Moosehead Lake

Explore Moosehead

MAJESTIC MOOSEHEAD LAKE, with its 400 miles of undeveloped shoreline, surrounding mountain peaks and expansive views, provides an inspiring backdrop to escape the everyday fast pace of life. The winter months and the abundant snowfall open up a spectacular opportunity to explore back-country trails and frozen bodies of water. Wildlife abounds on trails and it is common to see moose, deer, wild turkeys and many woodland animals up close and personal. 

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

Photo: Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument

If cross-country skiing or snowshoeing is your winter sport choice, you can enjoy your passion on nearly 25 miles of packed and groomed trails in the pristine Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking are permitted on ungroomed trails, but it is recommended that only experienced individuals use the ungroomed trails as the terrain is often steep and uneven.

Snowmobiling is allowed on approximately 22 miles of trails within the National Monument. Local snowmobile clubs are responsible for the management of snowmobiling activities. For current local trail conditions check out The Maine Snowmobile Association’s website

Ice fishing and winter camping opportunities are also available in the Katahdin Woods and Water National Monument. Reservations are required for walk-in primitive tent sites, and lean-tos, as well as for bunk space in primitive community huts. Winter campers must be prepared for extreme weather conditions, follow a carry in/carry out trash policy, and only use downed wood gathered in the area by the campsite for a campfire. To register contact Susan Adams, EPI Recreation Manager:  207-852-1291,

Maine Dogsledding Adventures

Photo: Maine Dogsledding Adventures

Consider treating yourself to an authentic winter adventure of dogsledding. Contact Don and Angel Hibbs, expert dog mushers, who operate Maine Dogsledding Adventure at (207) 731-8885 or by email: Special ½-day to 2-day tours provide a unique experience for families and winter adventurers. Mush 10-12 miles in the wilderness near Baxter State Park. Everyone gets a turn on the runners driving the sleds!

You have great choices in accommodations for your winter getaway in the Katahdin Region. In Medway, you will find the Gateway Inn conveniently located just off the Interstate. Your canine companions are always welcome. Enjoy a continental breakfast before you head off for a day on the trail. River’s Edge Motel lets you sled from your door to an on-site trail, After a day on the trail. Enjoy a sensational pizza or some other wonderful appetizing dish prepared on the premises to please any palate. In Millinocket you will find the iconic Katahdin Inn & Suites. Here you will enjoy a large heated pool, hot tub, exercise, game and play room area, plus a business center, if you need to check back on work while away. You will also enjoy a continental breakfast, and yes, they are pet friendly.

For more information contact: The Katahdin Region Chamber of Commerce: 207-723-4443.  

Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School


Get out and Climb This Winter!

From top to bottom, photos by: Bill Wood, Seth Fischer, Andrew Krause, Chris Bartram.

Mountain guide Jon Tierney believes that anyone who likes being outside in winter and has a reasonable degree of fitness can be successful climbing ice.

“The learning curve for ice climbing is easier than rock climbing because you can put your crampons and ice axes almost anywhere” Tierney says. Jon has been guiding and teaching ice climbing since the eighties. He has even taken clients to western China to tackle first ascents of difficult ice climbs and mountain peaks. Jon is one of 80 fully certified international mountain guides working in the US (IFMGA) and the only one residing in Maine.

If you are interested in learning to ice climb, instruction is essential. Hiring a professional guide is the surest and fastest way of learning to ice climb safely. Jon’s school, Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School offers daily instruction in Acadia National Park, Camden Hills, and the Sugarloaf and Sunday River regions as well as over the border in the White Mountains. The school is fully accredited by the AMGA to provide rock, ice, mountaineering or backcountry skiing instruction or guiding.

Start swinging those ice tools today!

Ice Climbing Courses Winter 2021

– February 13–14
– March 20–21
– or by Private Arrangement

Mt. Washington, New Hampshire
Call for availability (207) 866-7562

Half-Full Day of Ice Climbing in Acadia National Park, Camden Hills, or Bangor Ice Park
Call for availability (207) 866-7562

You can get that New England feeling of ice climbing in Acadia and Camden without the drive to Mt. Washington Valley. 




Snowshoeing, particularly when it’s accompanied by mindfulness and meditation, can be one of the most restorative forms of winter recreation we have readily available in Maine. 

Finding Winter Wellness with Mindful Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing can enhance cardiovascular health, strengthen leg muscles, burn calories (420-1000 per hour, depending on pace and conditions) and provide a low-impact fitness activity that’s safer for the joints.For the many Mainers who’ve spent months in a state of ongoing change and uncertainty, the pandemic might be starting to take its toll. As winter slowly progresses, you’re probably searching for new ways to safely spend time outside the home.

Luckily, there’s one activity that covers a whole lot of ground. Snowshoeing, particularly when it’s accompanied by mindfulness and meditation, can be one of the most restorative forms of winter recreation we have readily available in Maine. 


Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that involves focusing one’s awareness on the present moment by acknowledging the sights, sounds, sensations and thoughts as they arise in real time. It can help you achieve a state of focus that brings mental clarity and physical ease. 

According to the American Psychological Association, practicing mindfulness can reduce stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, boost memory and focus, decrease emotional reactivity, provide greater cognitive flexibility and even enhance interpersonal relationships. 


From the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle to Harris Farm in Dayton, (and everywhere in between) there are no shortage of scenic snowshoe trails to choose from in Maine. Once you’ve taken your pick, (or maybe you have your very own secret trail) strap on your favorite pair of snowshoes and set off on an adventure. Here are a few steps that can help you get into a state of mindful awareness: 

Take in Scenery with Your Senses

Start by simply taking it all in. Feel the crispness of the air on your face. Hear the sounds of nature around you—the falling snow, the rustling leaves and branches, the wildlife rummaging around. Observe the light shining on each individual object.  Smell the trees and freshly fallen snow. 

One of the best ways to practice mindfulness while showshoeing is by syncing up with your breath. Focus on Your Breath

One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is by syncing up with your breath. Inhale with a long, deep breath, hold for a pause, and slowly exhale.  You can even repeat: “I breathe in. I breathe out,” to anchor your mind to the process and help you stay out of your thoughts. 

Find Rhythm With Your Movement

With snowshoeing comes the ease of repetition and a state of rhythmic bliss. This, in and of itself, is a form of mindfulness. Move at your own steady cadence and strive to time each step with your breathing techniques, perhaps still repeating “I breathe in. I breathe out.” 

Stop For a Mindful Snack 

Mindful eating is a great way to tap into the sense of taste and truly enjoy a snowshoeing time-out. Stop for a few minutes to savor your trail snack, taking the time to chew each bite and be fully aware of its texture and taste in your mouth. Eating becomes an intentional act and a way to practice mindfulness on the snowshoe trail. 

Why Guided Meditations are Great For Snowshoeing 

Another way to engage in mindfulness while you snowshoe is by practicing a guided meditation. If focusing on your surroundings is still distracting you, which is normal, grab a pair of earphones and listen to a guided meditation. Apps such as Headspace, Calm or even YouTube offer a wide variety of guided meditations that vary in length and cover your unique meditation goals.

Other Snowshoeing Benefits 

In addition to the numerous benefits that come from practicing awareness, mindful snowshoeing also imparts many physical benefits. It can enhance cardiovascular health, strengthen the muscles of the legs, burn calories (420-1000 calories per hour, depending on pace and snow conditions) and provide a low-impact fitness activity that’s safer for the joints.


As we head into this particular season, it might feel like too many things are still unknown.  Know that you have more control than you realize! Simply by grabbing some warm gear, a pair of snowshoes and employing a mindful mindset, you can experience one of the most enjoyable Maine winters yet. 

— By LeeMarie Kennedy, Copywriter and Content Marketing Creator in Boston, MA. When she’s not meticulously wordsmithing, she can be found teaching and coaching as a RYT-500 yoga instructor and wellness specialist, walking in nature, traveling the world, laughing, drinking coffee or eating something delicious.

Stratton Brook Hut Trail

3 Winter Hikes in Western Maine for Every Skill Level

In the heart of Sugarloaf country, these winter hikes will get you out into snow-covered forests and fields with views of white-washed peaks, crystal waters and even a frozen waterfall.

Hiking doesn’t have to come to a halt when snow hits the ground. Although winter hiking comes with its challenges and some extra gear, this season, with a little preparation, can be one of the most magical times to hit the trail. 

While snowshoes aren’t necessary on these groomed trails, you’ll want to wear sturdy winter boots with good treads, and may want to carry hiking poles and cleats in case of ice. Dress in layers, and have an extra dry layer in your pack. Always be sure to check weather and trail conditions. When the sun goes down, temperatures can drop quickly, so make a plan to be off-trail before dusk. 

1. Family Friendly:
Narrow Gauge Pathway

Carrabassett River, Narrow Gauge Pathway

Carrabassett River, Narrow Gauge Pathway

The Narrow Gauge Pathway is a nearly flat trail that meanders along the valley floor with the picturesque Carrabassett River. Built on an old narrow gauge railroad, the wide gravel path makes for easy walking, with plenty of opportunities for breaks to throw stones in the river and enjoy a picnic on benches along the way. 

There are a few well-marked entry points along Route 27 in Carrabassett Valley, all affording a similar experience, with quick access to the trail and river where hikers can make an out-and-back walk of any length on the six-mile trail. The Airport Trailhead, behind the Sugarbowl bowling alley, is the southern-most access point. With a very slight incline on the way up, this means the same slight downhill on the return. After passing through a large field, the trail soon hits the river and travels beside its scenic tree-lined shore most of the way.

2. Intermediate:
Poplar Stream Falls

Poplar Stream Falls is a 51-foot waterfall at the confluence of South Brook and Poplar Stream that looks different in every season. Catching it in the height of winter means much of the waterfall is frozen as if suspended in time.

To access the trailhead, park at the Carrabassett Valley town office parking lot, the first left off Carriage Road, since there is no parking at the trailhead. Then walk up Carriage Road and take your first right, going over a small bridge to the trailhead. 

Surrounded by the quiet of the snow-covered forest, the pleasant gurgles of Poplar Stream may be all you hear for most of the walk, as the trail climbs gradually uphill with a few minor steep portions, until the rush of water gets louder. You’ll turn the bend and see the falls straight ahead, about two miles in.

Poplar Stream Falls can also be accessed by Maine Huts and Trails Poplar Hut Trail, which is also intermediate.

Stratton Brook Hut. Photo courtesy of John Orcutt.

3. Challenge:
Stratton Brook Hut via Newton’s Revenge

Part of the 50-mile Maine Huts and Trails network, this trail begins at the Stratton Brook Hut Trailhead off Route 27 in Carrabassett Valley. After the trailhead kiosk, a short connector trail crosses a bridge and joins a small portion of the Narrow Gauge Pathway, which soon meets up on the left with Newton’s Revenge. Don’t let its flat start fool you— soon after a gentle climb, the trail lives up to its name for the final mile. If the climb doesn’t get your heart pumping, then the slope-side views of Sugarloaf Mountain will. At the top, the trail connects to the Stratton Brook Hut service road, which leads you to the hut and 360-views of both Sugarloaf and the Bigelow Range. 

This trail is typically groomed, but check the Maine Huts and Trails website for current conditions and watch out for skiers. It’s about three miles from trailhead to hut, which during normal times offers lodging and meals, but is currently closed due to the COVID-19 virus.

If there is no snow or only a light dusting, take Oak Knoll Trail for a more challenging and slightly longer (almost four miles) ascent. As its name suggests, a path of rust brown oak leaves mingle with charming stepping stones to guide your way up its many switchbacks. This trail isn’t groomed and best to avoid in deep snow. 

— Story & Photos: Catie Joyce-Bulay. Catie is a Winslow-based freelance writer who recently moved back to her home state. Find her writing on travel, beer and people pursuing their passion at or Twitter @catiejoycebulay.

WInter in Machias, Maine

Winter Arrives Way Down East

Skiff and lobster buoys-Mikchael Leonard Photography

Photo by Michael Leonard

When November’s freezing nights arrive in the Machias region, folks crank up their woodstoves, and the smell of burning seasoned wood wafts along with the fragrance of freshly-tipped balsam branches. Seasonal work is a major economic factor in Washington County, and the crafting of hundreds of thousands of beautiful Christmas wreaths and holiday decorations for shipment across America, provides job opportunities for many people. 

Wreath making can be found across all of Down East in the Machias area, which is home to several of the major players, Whitney Wreaths in Machias, Machias Bay Wreath in Machiasport, and Gay’s Wreaths in neighboring Marshfield. In addition to these companies, there are a host of small, independent providers of beautiful and fragrant wreaths.

Skating in Machias. Photo by Carol Savage Photography

Photo by Carol Savage

By mid-December Mother Nature has usually graced the area with a blanket of snow, which launches a variety of fun winter activities on the Down East Sunrise Trail. This 96-mile multi-use trail is dedicated to snowmobiling, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing and hiking after the trail is snow covered. The trail traverses some of Maine’s most pristine landscapes of blueberry barrens, forests and breathtaking coastal scenes. There are access points along the entire trail. In Machias one can get on the trail just before the causeway/dike.

Great accommodations and dining opportunities make Machias a perfect winter destination. The Bluebird Ranch Family Restaurant, Helen’s Restaurant, and Pat’s Pizza are several of Down East’s excellent dining institutions.

Superior amenities for your winter get away will be found at both The Bluebird Motel and the Machias River Inn.

After a prolonged absence due to insurance difficulties, the town of Machias and the  Machias Bay Area Chamber of Commerce returned public ice skating fun to the South Side Ball Field last winter, to provide folks with another great way to enjoy winter fun. For more information [and updates relative to the pandemic] contact the Machias Bay Area Chamber of Commerce – (207) 255-4402.

Jim Harnedy

Jim Harnedy (1932-2020)

— Text: Jim Harnedy. In his third professional career, Jim was the author of a number of books and magazine articles, as well as being an editor and co-publisher of several Maine magazines. Jim passed away last spring, and it is with great fondness that we celebrate his frequent contributions to the Activities Guide of Maine.







How UMF and Mainely Outdoors program keeps the community thriving outdoors

We told you about Avery, our new intern who is an outdoor enthusiast and student at University of Maine at Farmington. Here’s a little bit about Avery. And here’s a cool video he shot highlighting his school’s outdoor rec program Mainely Outdoors.

Check out his article below as we continue through October to #keepourspiritsupmaine!

How UMF and Mainely Outdoors program keeps the community thriving outdoors

By Avery Boucher, intern for Activities Guide of Maine

Amidst the global pandemic, the University of Maine school system has welcomed students back onto campus this fall. Face coverings, social distancing, and randomized testing are all required if students want to be present on campus. As the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) students filled the dorms and resumed in-person classes, many students sought creative ways to engage in social activities safely. One campus- driven organization in particular stepped up to the plate; Mainely Outdoors, or better known by most on campus as MO.

MO, best described by the Program Director Andrew Willihan, is an “outdoor recreation-based program that supports getting UMaine Farmington community members outdoors. From introductory instruction to seasoned enthusiasts.” The introduction of Covid-19 has resulted in a surge of outdoor recreation that has developed since March of 2020. MO was geared up and ready to provide for the UMF community. Within the second week of the fall semester, MO was renting gear and leading local trips such as mountain biking at Titcomb Mountain and night hiking at Prescot Field. Both weekly trips have had turnouts in the double digits.

Though MO was cleared by UMF facilities for operations this semester, its operations came with guidelines: thorough sanitization of all equipment, participation in social distancing, and the requirements of face coverings when within 12 feet of one another in an outdoor setting. By conforming to these guidelines, MO has been able to provide the students with outdoor recreation at a time when it has become most needed.

“Our most valuable asset is our location,” said Willihan. “We are in the heart of the western mountains and waterways of Maine. Our next biggest asset is our student staff. The passion, inclusiveness, and work ethic drives the program to be a constant within the community and an outlet for many.”

MO and the UMF campus tend to draw many that are already well versed in the outdoors, although one of the primary goals of MO is to get people who have never engaged in outdoor recreation before. The Farmington campus is immersed in a great geographic location for Mainers and students from other states to earn an education while also partaking in recreation of all sorts.

Due to Covid-19, Mainely Outdoors’ rental equipment and excursions are only available to students and faculty of the UMF. In a normal year, MO would have provided excursions to all UMaine students, faculty, and community members; however, MO hopes to return to regular operations in the near future.


Geary Brewing Co. keeps a strong and vibrant course through an uncertain fall

Industry Snapshot with Robin Lapoint President & Co-Owner

Even Geary Brewing Co., New England’s first craft brewery a pioneer in its fieldhad to adjust to the whiplash changes of a pandemic, but to date, co-owner and president Robin Lapoint is proud to say the brewery remains fully employed and everyone has stayed well and healthy. 

Back in the spring, they had to make the difficult decision to close the tasting room to limit health risks and focus on the well being of their brew team and operations staff.  Both their brand and contract brewing remain strong and they are grateful to have the expertise and capacity to support their business operations as well as other brewers.

For the fall, Geary’s continues to offer curbside pick ups (call 207-730-0979) and delivery by CarHop. They have used this time to work on packaging and branding, and invest in and install capital equipment to increase quality, efficiency, and capacity. Their emphasis is on making sound business decisions and planning for variables heading into the winter and 2021.

Thirty years strong, Geary Brewing is positioned to weather the Covid pandemic and future challenges. To keep active and seize the opportunity to enjoy the great Maine outdoors, co-owners Robin and her husband, Alan, have spent their free time boating on Sebago, golfing with their children, and hiking through Acadia National Park.

Check out more of our Industry Snapshots on the craft brew, distilling and Maine outdoor industries as we #keepourspiritsupmaine

Meet our new intern Avery Boucher!

We at the Activities Guide of Maine are excited to welcome Avery Boucher as our Fall/Winter Outdoor Media Content internship student from the University of Maine Farmington. In partnership with Mainely Outdoors, Avery will get to utilize his passion for outdoor recreation to create digital content that introduces and inspires our audience to experience new Maine adventures.

Mainely Outdoors is an outdoor recreation-based program that supports getting UMaine Farmington community members outdoors, from introductory instruction to seasoned enthusiasts.

Growing up in Burlington, Vermont, Avery was immersed in many outdoor recreational activities including fishing, mountain biking, skiing, and trail running. Avery is pursuing a degree in Environmental Policy and Planning and a Minor in Legal Studies. He is following a career path that involves his passion for the outdoors and environmental awareness. We are very happy to have him here as we grow together and to help him along his journey!

Avery will work on producing video content and we will be assisting him in creating blog posts about local adventures that will be shared across Activity Maine’s media channels. Our goal is to help develops his communication and digital media skills over the next several months.

Stay tuned as we post some of Avery’s blogs and videos this week as we #keepourspiritsupmaine




Behind The Page: Meet staff freelance photographer, Mike Leonard

As part of our campaign, #keepourspiritsupmaine we’re turning the interview process inside out and asking our freelance staff of Maine Brew & Bev Guide and Activities Guide of Maine what keeps them upbeat and resilient during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 –and what they’re doing to stay happy, connected, and forward-thinking this fall.

Q: What is your freelance specialty and what do you do for Activities Guide / Maine Brew & Bev Guide?

My specialty across all of the publications is photo editing and stock photography.  I “fix” and improve the photos that are published to make them more eye-appealing and relevant to the subject. 

Q: What is your favorite local Maine craft beverage?

One of my favorite beverages is Dragon Fly Wine & Distillery’s Blueberry Bliss wine – it is a sweet wine that is made here in Maine.  It is called a dessert wine and is best when served chilled.

Q: Personally, has COVID-19 experience changed your freelance work, and if so, in what way?

Much of my scheduled summer and fall photography activities were canceled due to COVID-19.  I was on tap to have a record year of 26 photo cruises scheduled along the Maine coast and all but one got canceled.  I began getting projects that would normally be done off season. With a lot of people stuck at home, they began going through their old 35MM slides and finding videotapes that they had not seen in years and it was the best time to get them converted to a digital form to be able to view and share more easily. 

Q: What do you do to keep your spirits up and stay resilient?

My passion for photography significantly helped me to keep my spirits up.  While places and events were closed down I knew that Nature was still “open” so I embraced it. In the spring, I forced myself to get outdoors and do more bird watching and made photos of some of the most beautiful migratory birds.

I was also able to capture some weather phenomenon – namely thunder and lightning storms that are always a favorite of mine to shoot.   

With the clearer summer nights I was able to do some nighttime photography in early and mid-summer and I love seeing those colors of fall foliage.

Photography has always been a passion of mine and although Covid squelched many of the planned activities I was fortunately still able to personally remain active making pictures of the beautiful surroundings for which we are so fortunate to have all around us in Maine.

Mike Leonard has been involved with photography for more than 35 years and is now engaged in photo tourism offering photography services and programs to businesses and the public. Mike’s work can be seen on television, in books, websites and of course in magazines.

How Sebago Brewing Co. continues to crest the wave

Industry Snapshot

Maine’s breweries got the one-two-punch like all small businesses affected by COVID-19, particularly after Maine’s state mandate prevented bars and tasting rooms from opening until this past July. As we head into November, Maine will have entered Stage 4 of the Plan To Restart Maine’s Economy. Stage 4 anticipates a reopening date for indoor service for bars and tasting rooms of Monday, November 2, 2020. Some breweries are prepared to stay open even though the possibility for losses over the winter months still poses a real threat.

How Sebago handled the COVID setbacks

Sebago took a slow, patient approach to opening, keeping everyone on staff covered by their insurance, so that the employees didn’t have to pay it back. They took their time to look for best practices, and waited to see what other businesses were doing. They didn’t want to open unprepared or have customers come in and not like what they experienced or feel uncomfortable and back away. First, they trained staff how to do things differently in the COVID era, and even did some role-playing to get operations down before opening. For their efforts, they received tons of positive feedback from customers on how spacious and safe their pubs were.

Second, they focused on the well-being on their staff: they scheduled the right amount of managers and staff to handle visitor traffic and also allowed special time off so staff could regroup.

Third, they made a major menu option reduction, as, like most restaurants, they couldn’t carry inventory pre-COVID. To accomplish this, they had to close for almost four months and redesign the menu, which kept the classic menu items, but had to eliminate all discounts and happy hour and half-price apps because of thin margins in order to maximize revenue with limited open times. 

How they continue to look forward

Having high-quality beers and food and providing a safe and inviting atmosphere has been a successful plan.

But, making sure all best practices were in order to make their customers and staff feel safe and have an enjoyable experience is just as high as a priority these days.

Even though Sebago’s revenue is down about 50 percent, so far for 2020, they continue to work with their strengths, and cut out the drag, such as modifying how many days and hours they are open (eliminating Sunday and Monday)  and continue to maintain a streamlined level of revenue. 

Going forward into the fall/winter of 2020,  Kai Adams, VP and co-founder of Sebago urges quality control for Maine brewers. “It’s important to watch for factors that affect flavor quality, because poor quality beers can hurt a brewery who is struggling during this, and also affect Maine’s reputation of high standards of great craft beer.”

Adams also notes that “Packaging will be king this winter and every effort should be made to get that part right.” Sebago Brewing Co. has added a new 12-pack packaging line and labeler to now package short-run beers and he is excited that they continue to innovate to make a lot of fun and exciting beers.

Check out more of our Industry Snapshots on the craft brew, distilling and Maine outdoor industries as we #keepourspiritsupmaine

Behind The Page: Meet staff freelance writer, Dave Patterson

As part of our campaign, #keepourspiritsupmaine we’re turning the interview process inside out and asking our freelance staff of Maine Brew & Bev Guide and Activities Guide of Maine what keeps them upbeat and resilient during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 –and what they’re doing to stay happy, connected, and forward-thinking this fall.

Q: What is your freelance specialty and what do you do for Activities Guide / Maine Brew & Bev Guide?

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to write a number of articles on Maine breweries and beers, as well as pieces on homebrewing. I’ve interviewed dozens of innovative Maine brewers who work tirelessly to push this industry forward and make this state a premier destination for craft beer. And I’ve drunk a lot (a lot!) of delicious beer along the way.

I’ve also written about Maine’s ski and fishing industries for Activity Maine. As we all know, perhaps only Maine’s natural landscape can rival the beer industry. This magazine has given me the opportunity to make hard turns on Maine ski mountains and search for trout in storied rivers to bring the experiences to life for readers.

Q: What is your favorite local Maine Craft Beverage?  

This is an evil question! But if it must be answered, I’m obsessed with Bunker Brewing’s Machine Czech Pilz. It’s a perfect homage to the Bohemian Pilsner.

Q: Personally, has COVID-19 experience changed your freelance work, and if so, in what way?

Like most freelance writers, work has dried up almost entirely for all the publications I write for. It has forced me to pivot away from freelance writing, which has been heartbreaking. While I can work on other writing and creative projects to keep my sanity, the freelance opportunities are scant in this current landscape.

Q: What do you do to keep your spirits up and stay resilient?

I’m a writer. So even when the work isn’t there for freelance beer or outdoor writing, I continue to write. As a novelist, I always have some story problem to dive into. And I’m obsessed with the craft of writing, so I keep my head down–I write. But I do pine for the days when I can get out into the Maine landscape and drink an inspiring ale or cast for pristine fish only to tell readers about it in our cherished magazines. 

Dave Patterson is a novelist, beer enthusiast, and lover of all things Maine. His debut novel, Soon the Light Will be Perfect, was released in 2019. 

Behind The Page: Meet staff freelance art director, Larissa Davis

As part of our campaign, #keepourspiritsupmaine we’re turning the interview process inside out and asking our freelance staff of Maine Brew & Bev Guide and Activities Guide of Maine what keeps them upbeat and resilient during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 –and what they’re doing to stay happy, connected, and forward-thinking this fall.

Q: What is your freelance specialty and what do you do for Activities Guide / Maine Brew & Bev Guide? 

I am an artist focusing on painting, poetry, song, and movement. I receive great support and inspiration from nature, especially immersing myself in bodies of moving water and climbing cliffs. I assist Stan and the amazing team at Maine Brew & Bev Guide & Activities Guide as an art director.

Q: What is your favorite local Maine craft beverage? 

My favorite beverage is kombucha for the amazing health benefits!

Q: Personally, has COVID-19 experience changed your freelance work, and if so, in what way? 

This experience has definitely changed my life. The biggest change has been toward more and more understanding that I have got to do what my heart calls me to do. There is less and less ability for me to do things that I do not enjoy and feel inspired by. Sometimes, this means I have to stop doing graphic design work for a time. I feel that, ironically, as our freedoms are being restricted externally that within myself I am being freed from many of the beliefs and ideas that kept me doing things that did not bring me joy! It has also given me a deeper love for nature and a passion to protect it.

Q: What do you do to keep your spirits up and stay resilient? 

I paint, sing, walk in the wilds, dive in the waters, explore with friends and family, and consciously choose a path of happiness.

Experience Soul Path Art: Larissa Davis offers classes and coaching for creativity, insight, passion, transformation, growth, and a life lived with purpose.

Industry Snapshot with Sean Sullivan, Executive Director, Maine Brewers’ Guild

Sean Sullivan is one of the most knowledgable people in Maine’s craft beer industry. He’s the Executive Director of Maine Brewers’ Guild, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the craft beer industry in Maine. Their mission is to keep Maine in the forefront of the craft beer revolution by offering high quality and creative diversity for the customer.

It doesn’t even need to be said that Maine’s economy has gone through a lot in 2020 and the collective hope is that things will eventually get better as we are more informed and better equipped, particularly if there is a resurgence in COVID-19 cases heading into the winter.

The good news is that Governor Mills announced that starting October 13 Maine has now entered Stage 4 of the Plan To Restart Maine’s Economy. Stage 4 increases limits on indoor seating to 50 percent capacity of permitted occupancy, or 100 people – whichever is fewer. Stage 4 also anticipates a reopening date for indoor service for bars and tasting rooms of Monday, November 2, 2020. To reopen for indoor service, these establishments must abide by the newly-posted COVID-19 Prevention Checklist for seated food and drink service, which is an update to the restaurant checklist. This now eases a few of the challenges that some breweries were having of not being able to visit indoor tasting rooms the next several months ahead.

“Maine brewers and beer fans have really helped us achieve our goal of making our state a world-class destination for craft beer, and that has positioned us well to weather the downturn,” said Sullivan. “At the same time, brewers have had to rethink how they get their beer to market and have had to shutter so many of the welcoming spaces that bring our community together and serve as the core of most Maine breweries businesses. As we look ahead, we’re focusing on maintaining that collaborative spirit that has attracted so many to our industry and preparing to safely welcome back customers to tasting rooms.”

Asked what keeps his spirits up during these times, he said, “Going for a run with a podcast that has nothing to do with current events.”

Check out more of our Industry Snapshots on the craft brew, distilling and Maine outdoor industries as we #keepourspiritsupmaine

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