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Skiing Maine: 17 Mountains

Skiing Maine: 17 Mountains
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The invitation was irresistible: join Ski Maine executive director Greg Sweetser as part of a team of eight with the goal of hitting all of the Pine Tree State’s 17 ski mountains in a single long weekend last January. I agreed as soon as I was asked.

We’d travel more than 1,000 miles, with time for only one or two trails per mountain. Each run would be like taking a single bite of the most delicious chocolate bar — tastebuds all fired up — then having someone snatch it away.


1:30 p.m.
Spruce Mountain, Jay

With a few inches of freshly fallen powder, Spruce Mountain in Jay, Maine, was on the right side of the snow line. Rick Couture, president of Spruce Mountain Ski Club, greeted us as he handed out leather work gloves, a must-have accessory, considering that the only way up was by rope tow. Spruce seemed like a bastion of a bygone era: Instead of high-speed quad chairlifts or a slick gondola, it operates three rope tows; lift tickets are under $20, and the most popular lunch sandwich, a grilled cheese, costs $1. (To put that in perspective, a chocolate bar at most ski areas costs at least $2.) Run partly by volunteers and owned by three local towns, Spruce was the first of many community ski areas in Maine that we’d visit over the next three days. It’s the kind of area that grows lifelong skiers and riders and lovers of winter.

3:00 p.m.
Lost Valley, Auburn

This tiny mountain was once home to champion skier Julie Parisien, inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 2006; during her career she won three World Cup victories and competed in three Olympic Winter Games. It’s truly the American Ski Dream, and just one reason why these small mountains are special. You can grow up at a mountain with 243 vertical feet of skiing and go on to win World Cup races. Lost Valley’s lifts turn from morning to night on most days, which makes for a lively mountain, perfect for kids who can get runs in after school.

4:30 p.m.
Shawnee Peak, Bridgton

We arrived at Shawnee Peak in the late afternoon, and already the sky was dark, but the lights on the trails were bright. I rode the lift with team member Bruce Mason. Along the way, shadows from the trail below shouted to him and to his wife, Joanne, who rode the chair behind us. They both work as EMTs and ski patrol and knew many fellow patrollers at Shawnee.

I know many people who arrange their lives around skiing. Most of them work as landscapers or builders — jobs that let them make money during the off-season and ski and play all winter long. The Masons were the first couple I met who were completely dialed in on their ski life. They manage a cemetery. Not much happens at a cemetery when the graves are covered with snow and the ground is frozen solid, so Joanne and Bruce have plenty of time to ski. And they love every minute of it. While Bruce was quiet and introspective as he skied down a trail, Joanne hooted and hollered, especially as we took our one and only run over the silky-smooth snow at Shawnee. With the most night skiing in northern New England, Shawnee shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

6:15 p.m.
Mt. Abram, Greenwood

It was nighttime, and the bar/restaurant inside Mt. Abram’s lodge was busy. It was a tough call. Either boot up now and climb Mt. Abram, or do it after a leisurely dinner. We decided to eat first, ski later. Since the lifts weren’t running, we climbed to the second knoll in the moonlight. And one after another, we clicked in and headed downhill under a shimmering sky to a hollering and cheering crowd below. Although we wouldn’t be there for it, as the lifts started to turn the next morning Mt. Abram would be transformed from a low-key bar scene into a winter wonderland for families dressed in ski and snowboard gear the next morning.


7:30 a.m.
Sunday River, Newry

Management cranked the lifts early for us. We skied the most perfectly groomed and untouched corduroy as the sun rose, casting our morning in orange glow. Sunday River was ours for those two runs.

10 a.m.
Black Mountain of Maine, Rumford

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

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Updated Monday, December 8th, 2008

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5 Responses to Skiing Maine: 17 Mountains

  1. Marissa Dana December 9, 2008 at 1:03 pm #

    Wow! Amazing! And so many places to visit this winter…

  2. Jamie Trowbridge December 9, 2008 at 4:16 pm #

    I’m thrilled to hear so many local areas are doing well in Maine. Your story makes me want to seek them out. Plus, I’ve always wanted to ski Sugarloaf.

  3. Karin Johnson December 30, 2008 at 11:46 am #

    This reminds me of a club I belong to called “Quad Man/Woman”. Every year while vacationing in Aspen with a large group of friends we would spend one day of the vacation and ski all five mountains in the area in one day-top to bottom. We had to take public transportation- no personal vehicles allowed. We’d go straight to the top of the mountain and straight down and move onto the next mountain! I even have the “quadman/woman T-shirt to prove it!

  4. Jay Allen January 13, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    I am sooooooo jealous!!!

  5. Doug Willey February 8, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

    Awesome adventure and article, Heather! You must often think the phrase that Steve Martin had in one of his routines, probably before you were born…” the most amazing thing to me is…I get paid for doing this!”

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