All this early winter snow in Maine means it’s sometimes difficult to get around. Those knee-deep drifts make a leisurely winter walk more effort than it’s worth, and the fear of cracking your coccyx on account of a slippery sidewalk prevents some folks from leaving the house altogether. This winter, it seems, the dogs will have to walk themselves.
(OK, maybe not so much this week, what with the rain and all, but we can all agree that the snow is certain to return. In force.)
You’re certainly welcome to submit to self-inflicted house arrest until the spring thaw begins, or you can take to pushing a salt spreader wherever you go, like some personal safety baby carriage. But the best of your living-with-winter options is: Get out there. Get in it. Own the snow. And for the record, it’s easier to do with a pair of skis or snowshoes on your feet.
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are both easy to learn and they can make the difference between a happy winter and a homicidal one. And there are countless trails around the state that are regularly groomed and accessible for free or a small fee (read: these are budget-friendly winter sports).
If either sport is new to you, there are several area ski centers that offer rentals and lessons, like Carter’s XC Ski Center in Oxford, Harris Farm XC Ski Center in Dayton and Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.
In Freeport, L.L. Bean offers Outdoor Discovery Schools for both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The $20 classes include equipment rental, instruction and an hour or so out there doing your thing and doing your best not to fall down. They’re also an ideal way to test out a sport before committing yourself (which we all know can be scary, both emotionally and financially).
But more likely than not, you’re going to fall in love with the sport and wonder why you wasted so many winters indoors, bored out of your gourd and hugging the television set for warmth.
And best of all, you’ll learn “the turtle” – a wonderfully awkward-looking method of getting back up after you fall down in a pair of cross-country skis. And I assure you, you will fall down. But just think, in no time at all you’ll be cross-country skiing to the grocery store during a snowstorm, just because you can.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails, lessons and rentals:
Beech Hill XC Ski & Snowshoe Center
296 Tucker Road, Wayne; 207-685-9281; www.beechhillski.com
Eleven kilometers of wide, groomed trails on varied terrain for intermediate cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. $10 a day for adults.
Bethel Nordic Ski Center
21 Broad St., Bethel; 207-824-6276; www.caribourecreation.com
Thirty kilometers of trails groomed for both skate and classic skiing, eight kilometers of snowshoe trails. Rentals and lessons. $19 trail fee for a full day, $15 after 1 p.m.
Birches Ski Touring Center
281 Birches Road, Rockwood; 800-825-9453; www.birches.com
Forty miles of marked, groomed trails, ranging in difficulty from novice to high intermediate. Rentals available, $14 full-day trail pass for adults, $11 half-day.
39 Glover Road, Rumford; 207- 364-8977; www.skiblackmountain.org
Seventeen kilometers of trails, groomed for both skating and classic techniques. Rentals available. $15 trail pass.
Carter’s Farm XC Ski Center
786 Intervale Road, Bethel; 207-824-3880; www.cartersxcski.com
Fifty-five kilometers of beginner to expert trails, backcountry skiing, rentals available. $14 trail pass for adults.
Carter’s Farm XC Ski Center
420 Main St., Oxford; 207-539-4848; www.cartersxcski.com
Thirty trails for beginner to intermediate skiers. Large selection of equipment, rentals available. $14 trail pass for adults.
Five Fields Farm
720 South Bridgton Road, Route 107, Bridgton; 207-647-2425; www.fivefieldsski.com
Seventeen trails that cover a distance of 27 kilometers. Warming hut, equipment rentals. $12 full-day trail pass for adults, $10 after 2 p.m.
Harris Farm XC Ski Center
280 Buzzell Road, Dayton; 207-499-2678; www.harrisfarm.com
Forty kilometers of trails ranging from gentle beginner loops to rolling terrain for more advanced skiers. Equipment rentals, lessons, warming hut with food. $15 weekend trail fee for adults, $12 midweek.
Hidden Valley Nature Center
131 Egypt Road, Jefferson; 207-200-8840; hvnc.org
More than 20 miles of ski paths, half of those are lightly groomed throughout the winter months for back-country skiing. Snowshoe rentals. $5 day-use fee.
200 Lost Valley Road, Auburn; 207-784-1561; www.lostvalleyski.com
More than 12 kilometers of trails groomed for both skate and classic cross-country skiing. Equipment rentals available.
Nordic Heritage Center
Route 167, Presque Isle; 207-762-6972; www.nordicheritagecenter.org
More than 20 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, equipment rentals available. Two and a half kilometers of trails are lit for night skiing from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. daily. Free.
15 Farm View Drive, New Gloucester; 207-688-6599; www.pinelandfarms.org
Twenty-five kilometers of trails, two warming huts, equipment rentals and lessons. $13 full-day trail pass for adults, $9 after 1 p.m.
Rangeley Lakes Trails Center
524 Saddleback Mountain Road, Rangeley; 207-864-4309; www.xcskirangeley.com
Fifty-five kilometers of trails, rental equipment available. $18 full day trail pass for skiers, $14 half-day, $9 day pass for snowshoeing.
Smiling Hill Farm
781 County Road, Westbrook; 207-775-4818; www.smilinghill.com
Twenty-five kilometers of trails, equipment rentals, warming hut. $12 day pass for adults, $8 after 1 p.m.
Ski Slope Road, Jay; 207-897-4090; www.sprucemountain.org
Five kilometers of trails. $6 trail pass for adults.
Sugarloaf Outdoor Center
3001 Touring Center Road, Carrabassett Valley; 237-6830; www.sugarloaf.com/outdoorcenter
Ninety kilometers of groomed trails, equipment rentals, lodge, lessons. $21 full-day trail pass for adults.
Sunday River Outdoor Center
23 Skiway Road, Newry.; 207-824-5700; www.theoutdoorcenter.net
Thirty-five kilometers of cross-country and snowshoeing trails, equipment rentals, dog-friendly Farm Loop. $19 full day trail fee for adults, $15 after 1 p.m.
Titcomb Mountain XC Trails
180 Ski Slope Road, West Farmington; 207-778-9031; www.titcombmountain.com
Eighteen Nordic trails with a total distance of 17 kilometers groomed for classic and skate style skiing. Equipment rentals available. $5 trail pass weekdays, $10 weekends.
Shannon Bryan is a content producer at mainetoday.com.