Mainers are eager to get their snowshoes and cross country skis out of the garage and head out on the trails to enjoy winter. It’s a time when locals and visitors encounter each other at one of Maine’s fabled diners over a long breakfast. It’s when people learn a new skill or raise their expertise in woodworking, photography or cooking.
Snowshoeing – Long a favorite winter activity, snowshoeing is not only a tradition in the Maine woods, but has become one of the Northeast’s fastest growing sports. “If you can walk, you can snowshoe” rings true, and when Mother Nature blankets the state with lots of powder, snowshoeing is an easy and inexpensive way to travel quietly in the great outdoors and get some healthy exercise.
While traditional wooden models have given way to high-tech plastic and metal frame snowshoes, the simple mechanics of the sport have remained the same: just strap the snowshoes onto your winter boots and start walking. Whether you’d like to take an easy afternoon snowshoe trek around Pineland Farms or snowshoe to one of the Maine Huts and Trails‘ locations for a longer stay, you’ll find miles of trails to explore and acres of unspoiled wilderness to see. The Appalachian Mountain Club is offering a new hut-to-hut snowshoe for the first time in January. Traveling from Little Lyford Lodge to Gorman Chairback Lodge, this is a weekend excursion with registered Maine guides.
Cross-Country Skiing – For those who love the aerobic burn that comes from a morning spent on skinny skis, cross-country skiing trails can be found all over the state of Maine. That said, there are unique places with a Nordic heritage where cross country is considered a part of the local culture.
Take the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle, a dedicated facility in Aroostook County with a 6,500-square-foot lodge, 20 kilometers of cross-country trails and a 30-point biathlon range, operated by the nonprofit Nordic Heritage Sport Club. Its facilities include a separate wax building with 26 wax rooms. The Rangeley Lake Trails Center has 65 km of Nordic skiing trails and a warming yurt lodge while Carter’s Cross Country Ski Center has two locations: Oxford and Bethel. Oxford has 30 km of trails while Bethel features more than 55 km of ski and snowshoe trails for beginner-to-advanced skiers.
Maine’s Diners – One aspect of Maine that doesn’t change with the seasons are its diners. A number of them are the vintage “dining car” structures that began showing up throughout New England in the 1930s and 1940s.
At Maine Diner in Wells, specialties like The Dale Arnold, a hot buttered lobster roll, are well suited for a winter’s day. At Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, Yankee pot roast, baked stuffed haddock and whoopie pies rule throughout the season. Becky’s Diner, along the waterfront in Portland, is a refuge for lobstermen and hipsters. Breakfast is served from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. and might be a lobster and Swiss cheese omelette or simply two eggs over easy with homemade corned beef hash.
Of course, you can always fall back on coffee, burgers and a slice of pie at any of the state’s vintage diners.
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