Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Ski Maine

Many things about Maine make it an incredible place to grow up.  Living there teaches you to be tough without being hard, to be self-sufficient and still neighborly, to work hard, but know when to call it quits and enjoy your home and family.  There are many reasons I believe the place and the people gave me these traits, and one of them is the seasons – the hard winters, muddy springs, humid summers, crisp falls.  Each season brings its own challenges as well as its pleasures, and at this time of year, winter sports are the highlight.

I grew up skiing Sugarloaf, Shawnee Peak, and Saddleback Mountain.  I’ve skied Sunday River too, but in the battle between The Loaf and The River, Sugarloaf gets my vote.  Each of these mountains offers something unique to the winter sports enthusiast.

Shawnee Peak, a small mountain in Bridgton, Maine, was a short, 45-minute drive from my house, making it an easy weekday or weekend trip.  My dad took us frequently as kids, and later, once we could drive ourselves, Eddie and I would head up there often.  The mountain has a limited number of trails due to its size, making it a great place for a beginner – there are plenty of options with gradually-increasing difficulty.  My favorite thing about Shawnee Peak is the night skiing – there is something incredibly freeing about slicing through snow, flying down the mountain, with the dark all around you and just a bit of lighting.  In addition, Shawnee Peak offers a comfortable, local vibe both on the slopes and in its restaurant, Blizzards Pub and today, they’re celebrating 75 years.  Congrats!

I learned to ski at Sugarloaf, and my brother works there now at the ski shop and The Bag.  Sugarloaf has undergone immense change and growth during the years since my childhood – so much so that I scarcely recognized it the last time I was there – but it has an undeniably special place in my heart.  I’ve always felt that Sugarloaf is quintessentially Maine – with friendly staff, great hospitality, plenty of activities for skiers, boarders, tubers, and even golfers in the summer time.  The organization’s commitment to growth and quality improvement is also evident.  Sugarloaf offers a variety of lodging and dining options, not to mention a huge variety of trails with different degrees of difficulty.  The mountain is the largest ski area east of the Rockies, with 1,153 skiable acres and 14 lifts.  Maybe I can convince my brother to write a Sugarloaf-specific post in the future!

Despite my fond childhood memories of Sugarloaf, Saddleback Mountain is easily my favorite mountain in Maine.  At Saddleback, I finally learned how to successfully ride the t-bar – with another person and by myself.  At Saddleback, I tried snowboarding for the first (and last) time.  The years my family spent going up to Saddleback during February vacations were formative for me – I was a pre-teen and then a teen, finally old enough to be given greater independence to ski where I’d like, without supervision, and I embraced it.  Saddleback didn’t intimidate me, because at the time they only had two lifts and 3 t-bars, and in no time at all, the mountain felt like home to me.  Even today, Saddleback is recognized for being “different” from other ski resorts in Maine – it is in a class of its own – it may not be the biggest, with the most lifts, the most trails, the most restaurants – but it is unique, welcoming, and all about the outdoor sports enthusiast’s experience.

For a full list of Maine ski areas, check out this page from the Maine Office of Tourism.  So get out there, and ski Maine!

Ski Maine!

Ski Maine!


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What do you love about Maine?

One week from today, I will be back in Maine, and I can’t wait.  Each time I go home, I experience the most incredible sense of well-being.  I don’t know how else to describe it – it’s as if the place itself reminds me of who I truly am.

I’ve already put together an ‘itinerary’ of sorts (sorry Mom, Dad, Nick, K, and Eddie – who will all be ‘privileged’ with the opportunity to participate in this madness) of places I want to go to and document for future blog posts.  I hope that excites you as much as it excites me!

With that in mind, I wanted to ask you – what do you love about Maine?  Is there something specific you’d like me to write about, and if so, what is it?  Maybe I can research it during this trip – or at least prepare to do so during future visits.

A few of the things I love about Maine are:

  • the people (their ingenuity, commitment to community, work ethic, and so much more)
  • the coast (who doesn’t?)
  • the mountains (for their recreational activities – hiking, skiing, snowboarding, etc.)
  • the seasons
  • the way Portland is becoming increasingly recognized as a ‘foodie’ city

skiers

There are two very distinct moments in my life (so far) when I’ve realized what a special place Maine is. Even years later, the clarity of these memories is very strong. The first occurred when I was about 15, driving our 4-wheeler home from a day of working and riding horses at Vienna Farm.  I was near our neighborhood, and drove up a hill overlooking a meadow.  When I came to the top and saw the way the sun filtered in through the trees, I was immediately struck by the simple beauty of it. I remember thinking that I’d never really seen Maine as ‘beautiful’ before – it was just where I lived, not necessarily special – it was the first time I could understand why Mom and Dad chose to live here and not leave. Now, as an adult, I’m sure there were other, more practical reasons as well, but as a fanciful fifteen-year-old, the beauty was what mattered to me.

My second ‘enlightening,’ you might say, came during a summer home from college as I was strolling through the Old Port. For the first time, I saw the Old Port through the eyes of a visitor – perhaps a prospective student – and the immense appeal of the place hit me at once.  I’d just taken it for granted – the charming cobblestone streets and brick buildings – the oceanfront – the great shopping – the excellent bar hopping.  And I could suddenly see why someone, anyone, would want to live here, whether they’d grown up here or not.

Old Port

Thanks for joining me in my trip down memory lane, and I do hope you’ll share a memory of your own with me, or a reason you’ve come to love the great state of Maine.  As I asked above, what do you love about Maine?

6 days to go…