Skiing Maine: 17 Mountains
Hermon Mountain, Hermon
Unlike some big mountains where guests can pay for priority parking, Hermon bestows that privilege on Grammie Viles, who flips burgers while her husband works in the rental shop. Ten minutes from Bangor with 100 percent snowmaking, Hermon Mountain has been reinvesting capital into the mountain yearly. It operates like a well-oiled machine and serves as an updated model for future community ski areas that cater to local families as their customer base. skihermonmountain.com
Mt. Jefferson Ski Area, Lee
My fondness for small, family-owned local ski areas was just one reason I was looking forward to our visit to Mount Jefferson. The other reason was my fondness for homemade doughnuts. Mrs. Susan Delano, widow of one of the original six founders and turning 81 this year, makes them — nine dozen each day in four different flavors. skimaine.com/areas/mtjefferson
Big Rock Ski Area, Mars Hill
In 2000, the Maine Winter Sports Center bought this area with grants from the Portland-based Libra Foundation, which promotes winter sports in northern Maine. Since then, the mountain, founded in the 1960s, has focused on giving Aroostook County residents an affordable option to enjoy skiing. bigrockmaine.com
Quoggy Jo Ski Center, Presque Isle
By the time we arrived at Quoggy Jo, we were 30 minutes off schedule, but we were greeted with warmth and smiles. The small lodge had been taken over by a group of hip-looking kids, who upon our arrival braved the cold to crank the lifts and tour us around the mountain. After a couple of runs, we defrosted in the lodge and made dinner plans.
I’m not usually a meat-and-potatoes gal, so it might have been the cold, or it might have been my location that made me crave beef and comfort food big-time. We were in Aroostook County, the largest-area county east of the Mississippi. An expanse of remote land, its soil produces one of Maine’s most important crops: spuds. And in my opinion, the baked potato I had for dinner that evening, chased by a darned good steak, was the best I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.
After dinner, we headed back to the lodge. I hitched a ride with Joanne and Bruce, who happened to have an outside temperature gage in their truck. Joanne and I shrieked as the degrees dipped until we hit 28 below. It was a very cold night. I woke up from my food coma the moment I stepped outside the restaurant. skimaine.com/areas/quoggyjo
Lonesome Pine Trails, Fort Kent
Lonesome Pines is the closest ski mountain to the Canadian border in northern Maine. Like most of Aroostook County, it benefits from a winter-friendly climate, although with the recent addition of snowmaking covering 60 percent of the terrain, it’s not relying solely on Mother Nature. The day we visited the mountain, management had decided that it was too cold to open to the public, but they ran a lift so that we could get in our requisite run. Despite the frigid temperature, this was, once again, another mountain with a warm heart, whose mission is to serve the community at the lowest cost possible.
We stocked up on provisions before embarking for our last mountain, nearly six hours away, then climbed into the cars and settled in for a day on the road. I’d arrive at my final destination, my own bed, at 11 p.m. that night. Riding in a car for more than 12 hours in one day is miserable. But in the end, it’s completely survivable. Since my back was in tweak mode for the next nine weeks — either from sitting in one position for too long or from sleeping on the floor one night — I was reminded of this whirlwind tour not only by my nostalgic memories but also by the twinge whenever I stood up straight. skimaine.com/areas/lonesomepine
Camden Snow Bowl, Camden
A little road-weary, I cheered when I saw the Snow Bowl sign. Camden is a year-round community recreation center. During the winter, it offers tubing, ice-skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, in addition to alpine skiing, snowboarding, and a world-famous toboggan run. But the best thing about Camden is the view from the summit: The ocean is so close you could probably throw a snowball into it. After our final run, we celebrated achieving our goal with a champagne toast — to ourselves and to the 17 mountains we’d just skied. camdensnowbowl.com
End of the Trail