Where to Cross-Country Ski This Winter
Brave the cold to stride and glide at these 8 Nordic centers across Maine.
Has cabin fever set in yet? Are you itching to get back outside? If you’re looking for an activity that gets your heart pumping more than snow-shoeing—but doesn’t require the long list of gear necessary for downhill skiing—cross-country (also known as Nordic) skiing might be your happy medium. Whether you prefer skate or classic, fish scales, skins, or klister (we know you’re still out there), brave the cold and hit the trails at these eight Maine trail systems.
Pineland Farms, New Gloucester
Located on 5,000 acres of farmland, the trails at Pineland Farms are open year-round, first for running, hiking, biking, and disc golf in the spring through fall, then transforming into a full-blown Nordic center in the winter. From wooded hills to rolling fields, there are trails for all levels of cross-country skiers. Looking to work on your form? Sign up for an hourlong lesson: choose a private one-on-one session, a semi-private class with two people, or a group lesson with three to five students. If you need to take a break, check out the warming huts along the trails or stop in at the Pineland Farms Market for a snack. Plus, if you have little ones along for the ride, you can rent a chariot for $16 an hour. Be sure to check the trail conditions before you go.
Tickets: $20 adult day pass, $15 afternoon pass (after 1 p.m.)
Rentals: $20 for adult classic passage, $24 for adult skate package
Trail mileage: 18
Carter’s XC Ski, Bethel
Offering a wide range of trails for everyone from beginner skiers to expert gliders, Carter’s XC Ski has fantastic views of Maine’s western mountains, in addition to picturesque snowy, wooded vistas. Visitors can book one-hour, private, semi-private, or group lessons for all levels of experience in both skate and classic skiing. Just be sure to call ahead and make a reservation, because they fill up fast! Want to keep the fun going? Consider renting an off-the-grid, wood-stove-heated cabin that’s only accessible by ski or snowshoe.
Tickets: $20 adult day pass
Rentals: $20 adult classic package, $25 adult skate package
Trail mileage: 34
Oxbow Beer Garden, Oxford
At the original location of the Carter’s XC Ski Center (before the Bethel location opened in 1992), these five miles of trails sit adjacent to Oxbow Brewing Company’s Beer Garden with rentals available from nonprofit Portland Gear Hub on Saturdays and Sundays. Rarely groomed, the trails offer a rustic experience of wandering through the woods, made even better by a warming hut where you can imbibe some of the brewery’s offerings before braving the cold once more. Once you finish up your trek, be sure to head to the beer garden to enjoy a pizza and a brew around a firepit or in one of the plexiglass A-frames equipped with heat lamps.
Rentals: $45 adult ski package
Trail mileage: 5
Acadia National Park Carriage Roads, Mount Desert Island
Popular with hikers and bikers during the summer and fall, once the snow flies, the carriage roads of Acadia National Park become a winter wonderland for cross-country skiers. Managed and maintained by nonprofit Friends of Acadia, use of the trails is limited to when the snow level exceeds six inches and the roadbeds are frozen, so be sure to check the trail conditions before you make the trip up the coast! If you time it right, you’ll see the best of Maine’s national park in its quietest season.
Tickets: Free with a park entrance fee
Rentals: Available at various MDI stores
Trail mileage: 45
Nordic Heritage Center, Presque Isle
Home to a world-class cross-country ski and biathlon venue, the Nordic Heritage Center represents the height of Nordic skiing in Maine. With a lodge, kitchen facilities, a ski waxing building, and on-site saunas, the center is primed to host elite and amateur athletes alike. With numerous easy, moderate, and difficult rated trails that take fun turns through snowy wooded scenes, skiers of all levels will be entertained for hours on end.
Tickets: $8 adult day pass
Rentals: $10 adult ski package
Trail mileage: 12
Fort Kent Outdoor Center, Fort Kent
The site of local, national, and international cross-country skiing competitions, the Fort Kent Outdoor Center was originally used as a training facility for elite Nordic athletes. Now open to the public, there are novice, intermediate, and advanced trails that range from half a mile to four miles in length. Need to warm up? Head over to the Tenth Mountain Lodge, which has a great room, a sauna, a kitchen, and a field-stone fireplace to relax by before you venture back out into the snow.
Tickets: $15 adult day pass
Rentals: $15 adult ski package
Trail mileage: 4.5
Rangeley Lakes Trails Center, Rangeley
A stone’s throw from the shores of Saddleback Lake and just down the road from Saddleback Mountain, the Rangeley Lakes Trail Center offers a wide range of year-round trails popular with hikers and mountain bikers in the summer and snowshoers and Nordic enthusiasts come winter. With mostly beginner and intermediate terrain, a warming yurt, and 20-plus gnome-homes (and their inhabitants) hidden throughout, this is a family-friendly trip any time of the year.
Tickets: $22 adult day pass
Rentals: $20 adult ski package
Trail mileage: 35
Black Mountain of Maine, Rumford
Featuring big climbs, fast downhills, and plenty of flowy sections, the cross-country ski trails at Black Mountain of Maine are popular with skiers of all ages and skill levels. Known for recreational skiing as well as competitions held by the Chisholm Ski Club, a trip to the Black Mountain trails is guaranteed to expose you to skiers of all levels. Take it easy on a beginner trail or challenge yourself on moderate to advanced terrain.
Tickets: $15 adult day pass
Rentals: $20 adult ski package
Trail mileage: 10.5
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