Great Nordic Centers in Maine
Though it is known as “Vacationland,” Maine is usually associated with Summer getaways to the gorgeous seacoast, with lobster and sand beaches and kayaking and clam shacks. But “vacation” also applies to the winter months. Turn inland from the ocean, and Maine boasts some of the best skiing and snowy adventures in the Northeast. Below are some of our favorite, unmistakably Maine, cross country ski centers. They range from world cup caliber race venues to small family farms with groomed fields and forests to ski hubs complete with Nordic terrain parks. Wherever you’re headed in this endlessly interesting state, you can’t go wrong with any of the below locales. Be sure to click on the ski center names to learn more. Happy trails!
Spread out over 5,000 acres of rolling forests and farmland, the trails at this one-of-a-kind Nordic center are the perfect way to get safely lost in the gorgeous Southern Maine scenery. Whichever of Pineland’s many activity offerings you try—be it biking, running, walking, skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, skating or orienteering—you are guaranteed adventure and a rare glimpse into real rural Maine.
Centered on the Bethel Inn and Resort Trail Center, where visitors can get their trail passes and rental gear, this inland Maine destination offers an extensive network of trails through dense forest and breathtaking terrain. Skiers can opt either for the hilly, rugged tracks of the Pine Hill Trail System, or the more gradual and generously spread-out Bethel Inn system—or, if you’re in the mood for a day-long adventure, you can use the Connector Trail, and adventure through both. The non-profit run Inland Trails also feature an impressive selection of fatbike and snowshoe tracks, which will lead you to the vistas and rambling ridges of the eastern side of the area.
A prime example of New England’s exceptional farms turned ski centers, Harris Farm offers a staggering 40 km of well-groomed trails through a lovely mix of working fields and pristine forests. The farm is located just south of Portland, which makes this the perfect ski getaway for folks anywhere in southern New England. The Ski Lodge will equip visitors with all the ski or snowshoe gear needed for a day of discovery, and will sooth your sore bones with a wood stove and warming food and drink at the end of it—don’t miss the Harris Farm chocolate milk, widely known as the “best sports recovery drink.”
Another amazing Bethel, ME ski center, Carter’s takes full advantage of its stunning White Mountains address. 55km of trails run along the roaring Androscoggin river and wind up the lofty Farwell mountain, from which skiers (backcountry too), fatbikers and snowshoers can soak in views of Sunday River, Carter Moriahs, the Mahoosucs, and, of course, the imposing Presidentials. The Willowbrook Lodge will get you outfitted with all the ski or snowshoe gear you’ll need, from backcountry skis with metal edges to skate and classic skis to fatbikes.
In a place known for its deep woods fishing lakes and hunting camps, wintertime in this Western Maine destination comes alive with all manner of snow sports and backcountry adventures. The Rangeley Lakes Trail Center takes full advantage of the region’s 200 inches of annual snowfall, grooming them out into 55km of pristine trails. The terrain varies from the steeps of saddleback mountain to the gentle valleys between its foothills. Trails range from wide skate-skiable paths to narrow single tracks perfect for fatbiking, snowshoeing or backcountry skiing. Don’t miss a loop down to Saddleback Lake, where a lovely picnic spot looks out over the ice-covered depths.
Located in the heart of inland Maine, the ruggedly beautiful Sugarloaf Mountain is best known for the daunting alpine terrain at its Sugarloaf Mountain Resort. Just next to the downhill slopes, however, is another attraction worthy of attention: the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center. In the summer months, this unique destination is a hub for mountain bike adventures of all varieties, connecting riders with rental gear, trail info and après-ride delights. Come winter though, the Outdoor Center—which also happens to be the largest XC ski area in Maine—really shines. With over 90 km of groomed Nordic trails, endless fatbiking and snowshoeing opportunities, a skating rink and even an in-house bakery, there are few places with as many ways to enjoy a frosty Maine day. Combine this impressive list of activities with the remote, fir-filled forest which the Outdoor Center calls home, and you have a truly one-of-a-kind winter destination.
Tucked in the far Northern town of Presque Isle, the Heritage Center maintains 20 km of world-class Nordic skiing, complete with a race stadium, biathlon range, waxing center, and a fully decked out lodge. For just $8, skiers can explore the numerous features and trail types available at the Heritage Center: these include obstacle and terrain courses, and winding, hilly trails that vary widely in difficulty and circle the nearby ridgelines and valleys. Whether you’re a hardcore skier or you’re just looking for a dose of adventure in the Presque Isle region, you can’t go wrong with this remote gem.
This exceptional ski destination is another treasure of the furthest reaches of the northeast. Perched along the Canada-US Border, Fort Kent has long been a cross country ski mecca, with exceptional facilities and seven unique ski courses that span the long ridgeline surrounding the center, and range in difficulty from beginner-friendly flats to world-cup level circuits to intimidating climbs and intense drops. The Center itself consists of the gorgeous Tenth Mountain Lodge (complete with a fully-stocked ski shop, a window-walled Great Room, and a Sauna), a dedicated wax building, and a sizeable stadium. Or, if you’re a snowshoer, Fort Kent boasts over seven miles of dedicated, picturesque track for you to explore.