If you like the quiet plodding of cross-country skiing, or simply don’t want to pay the $100 lift ticket fees at the alpine slopes, Maine is your destination. With hundreds of miles of secluded forested paths, well-groomed trails opening up onto mountain vistas, and world-class lodges and lessons ready to start a life-long passion, the Pine Tree state is spoiled for Nordic pursuits. With so many places to choose from, consider a few of our favorites.
The Nordic skiing equivalent to overnight hiking trips, Maine Huts & Trails is a unique way to see some of Maine’s most remote regions. The premise is simple: ski all day, sleep in a cabin (or hut) at night. The two-day guided trips start around $400 and pass through old forests, along (likely frozen) mountain streams, and past stunning mountain vistas before stopping for the night at a warm hut where meals, hot showers, and a crackling woodstove awaits.
Family owned and operated, Carter’s combines expert service and premiere locations to provide skiers with the ultimate day trip. With locations in Oxford—better for beginners—and Bethel (which has views of Sunday River Resort across the valley, and the Mahoosuc and Presidential Ranges), Carter’s offers more than 85 kilometers of groomed trails to choose from. Rental prices and day passes are lower than the competition, and if you want to stay the night, their off-grid, trail-side cabins lit by gas lamps and woodstoves are just the thing for a romantic getaway.
One of the best mid-coast places to ski, Hidden Valley Nature Center is a sprawling, 1,000-acre natural expanse with some 10 miles of trails to explore. The terrain varies from ledge to wood to open field and lakeshore, all of which can be explored leisurely by staying overnight at cabins or a yurt. Classes will help you top up your skiing skills, while inexpensive rentals invite you to bring the whole family—or better, to come back.
Hidden Valley Nature Center, 131 Egypt Rd, Jefferson, ME, USA, + 1 207 389 5150
Sure, it’s a trek. But Acadia National Park—the summer destination for millions of American families for the better part of the 20th century—is well worth the hike come winter when the crowds are non-existent and island has a proprietary feel. Skiers, meet Mecca: the summer’s gravel carriage roads transform into 32 miles of groomed, interconnected trails that pass lake, mountain, and through forest.
Famed for its black diamond downhill slopes, Sugarloaf’s Nordic options are the resort’s best-kept secret. With an astounding 60 miles of well-marked trails (reputedly Maine’s single-largest track) there’s almost endless opportunity to explore off the beaten path. Every downhill ticket gives skiers access to the cross-country paths, where you can take a lesson to brush off the snow or—for pros—enter a race. After a bright blustery day exploring, sitting around the newly-renovated central lodge is a fine way to end a day.
Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, 5092 Access Rd, Carrabassett Valley, ME, USA, + 1 207 237 6830
Just north of Millinocket and within sight of Mount Katahdin, this maintained trail system passes through some 20 miles of woodlands and fields. The Timber Cruisers trails are free (donations welcome) and skiable even with just a few inches of snow on the ground thanks to the smooth terrain, which can be tackled in chunks. The best news? Light lunches are served at the NTC clubhouse during daylight hours on the weekends.