Winter scares some people. I get it. Snow can sometimes feel like an enemy whose sole purpose is to incite a back injury or send your car into a snowbank. But I think snow can also be your best winter friend, one who’ll take a ho-hum afternoon and turn it into something special. My evidence for such an idea: the immense number of snow-centric events coming up in the next few months. From snowshoe races and full moon hikes to amateur biathlons, ice climbing, and riding mattresses down a mountain, there’s a lot to look forward to this winter. And there’s a lot of reasons to wish for snow. Lots of it.
20+ active things to do outside in Maine this winter:
Climb for a Cure
4:30-9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 28
Sugarloaf, 5092 Access Road, Carrabassett Valley
Suggested cash donation of $10 per person
The Annual Sugarloaf Charity Summit begins with the Climb for a Cure. Snowshoe, hike, or skin up Tote Road trail to Bullwinkles for snacks and revelry. $10 cash donation supports the fight against cancer in Maine. Sign up at guest services between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. the day of the event.
Air-Rifle Ski Biathlon
11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 30
Roberts Farm Preserve, Norway
$10 kids, $15 adults
It’s friendly competition (mostly) at this amateur biathlon. Target practice starts at 9:30 a.m. (air-rifles provided), race at 11 a.m. You’ll ski the scenic trails of the preserve and stop twice at the shooting stations (penalty laps for every miss!). All snow-permitting, of course! Air rifles provided, choose between three 1K loops or three 2K loops.
NRCM Dip and Dash
11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 31
Back Cove & East End Beach, Portland
$35 for dip, dash or dip & dash
There are those who run. There are those who dip. And then there are the wonderfully crazed people who run in the cold and then plunge into the REALLY COLD Atlantic, all in the same afternoon. Those brave souls help raise funds for the Natural Resources Council of Maine every year during the annual Dip & Dash. You can just dip (11 a.m.) or just dash (noon), too.
Noon Jan. 1
The beach in front of The Brunswick, Old Orchard Beach
All dippers must raise a minimum of $100
The water’s freezing and the cause is good: Special Olympics Maine. Dippers have been turning up for the last 29 years to raise money by plunging – on purpose – into the ocean on New Year’s Day. We’re glad they do. Post-dip party includes free buffet, live music, and cash bar.
First Day Hike
Bradbury Mountain State Park, Pownal
10 a.m. Jan. 1
Free admission for this event
Learn about the history of the park, species identification and tracking during this 2-mile round-trip guided hike. From the summit visitors can go down the Northern Loop trail or continue on to the South Ridge trail. Snowshoe rentals available.
ALSO: First Day Hikes at Sebago Lake State Park, Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, and Lily Bay State Park. More info: www.maine.gov
Guided Snowshoe to Stratton Brook Hut
Saturday, Jan. 6 to Sunday, Jan. 7
Stratton Brook Hut, Kingfield
$283 per person, $214 youth. Discounts for MH&T members
Get your first weekend winter getaway in the books with this two day, one night snowshoe weekend at Stratton Brook Hut in Kingfield. A guide will lead the way as you snowshoe in, where you’ll enjoy a nice challenge with the climb and the stunning views of Sugarloaf and the Bigelows. At the hut, there’ll be three meals and warm fireplace. Also worth noting: They sell beer and wine at the huts! (More dates in February and March.)
ALSO: Check out all the MH&T this year: mainehuts.org
Mainely Ski & Ride to Sunday River
7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13
Bus leaves at 6:30 a.m. from the Park and Ride on Marginal Way in Portland
$110 (transport and lift ticket), $55 (transport only), $70 (lift ticket only)
Get on the bus! Mainely Ski & Ride will pick you up in Portland, drive you to Sunday River, hand over an all-day lift ticket and then drive you back at the end of the day (with on-bus snacks!). If you can’t make the Jan. 13 trip, there are trips to Sunday River on Feb. 4, Feb. 17, and March 10, too, as well as trips to Sugarloaf (see the full schedule).
39th Annual January Thaw 4.5-Miler Road Race
11 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 21
Belgrade Central School, Belgrade
$10 on day of race
Run, walk, waddle, or race and join Central Maine Striders for an invigorating run at the 39th annual 4.5-mile January Thaw Road Race.
Bradbury Mountain Snowshoe Series
11 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 21
Bradbury Mountain, Pownal
The Bradbury Mountain Snowshoe Series tests racers on three separate courses circling and climbing Bradbury Mountain in all manner of snow conditions. The series continues Feb. 11 and March 4. There are a limited number of snowshoes you can borrow, but you’ll need to register early to call dibs on those: trailmonsterrunning.com/bradburysnow
South Portland Winterfest 2018
Jan. 27 and 28
Wainwright Recreation Complex, 125 Gary L Maietta Pkwy, South Portland
There’ll be an ice skate party on the pond at Mill Creek on Friday night, followed by a day of snowy fun at Wainwright Recreation Complex.
Full Moon Snowshoe
4:30 p.m. Jan. 27
Randall Orchards, Randall Road, Standish
Meet at the farm at sunset and head out to explore the 500-acres of conserved orchard and forest while watching the full moon rise. The guided trek ends with hot cider from apples grown and pressed onsite at the orchard. The event is free, but registration is required.
Robert Burns 10k Road Race
9:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 28
Westbrook Community Center, 426 Bridge St, Westbrook
In honor of Robert Burns, the most cherished and celebrated Poet from Scotland, this road race was conceived to be unique, support a good cause, and have a special personal element connected to the theme of the race. The proceeds of the race will go to the Westbrook High School Alternative Learning Bike Shop, a hands-on learning program for kids who are at risk of dropping out.
Guided Blue Moon Snowshoe at Fields Pond
6:30 p.m. Jan. 31
Fields Pond, Greater Bangor
$10, $8 Audubon members
Roam the meadows and woods of Fields Pond under the light of the moon followed by a hot drink back at the center to warm up. Snowshoes available to rent or bring your own.
Full Moon Hike
8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31
Emmons Preserve, 57 Gravelly Brook Road, Kennebunkport
Go on a moderate 3-mile hike on the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust trails at Emmons Preserve. You’ll have a chance to pause along the way to enjoy the moon views. Bring a flashlight or headlamp and feel free to bring a beverage to enjoy after the hike at the KCT headquarters.
ALSO: Another hike on March 1.
Pisgah Hill Full Moon Trek
5-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1
Pisgah Hill Preserve, Dougherty Road trailhead, New Gloucester
Climb a half a mile to the summit of Pisgah Hill Preserve through the setting sun to witness the rising of the moon. Bonfire, roasted marshmallows and camaraderie await! Make your way down under the light of the moon. Bring headlamps, blankets, and snowshoes (weather depending).
Snow Day with Portland Trails
11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3
Conant Property, 105 Conant St, Westbrook
Suggested donation: $5/members, $7/non-members, $20/families
It’s a snow day, complete with fat bikes, snow shoes, bonfire and s’mores. Portland Trails is hosting the day at one of their newest green spaces, The Conant Property, which overlooks the Presumpscot River and is ideal for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Portland Trails will have some snowshoes to lend, or bring your own gear. Ernie’s Cycle Shop will have fat bikes to try.
Take-it-Outside Winter Family Fun Day
Mount Blue State Park, Weld
Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands hosts winter family fun days at different parks all winter (see the full schedule). Enjoy cross-country skiing, sliding, snowshoeing, ice skating, tote sled rides, hayrides, and nature walks.
Annual Super Bowl Sunday Table Tour
11 a.m. Sunday Feb. 4
Viles Arboretum, 153 Hospital St., Augusta
$20 each, $15 per person for groups of 4 or more, $5 children 12 and under
Ski or snowshoe the trails at Viles Arboretum, and along the way you’ll stop at tables full of good food and drink. There will be bonfires and seating at each station, so you can sit, eat, and relax before skiing on.
Starlight Snowshoe Tour
6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10
LL Bean’s Fogg Farm, 11 Desert Road, Freeport
This is an all-inclusive snowshoe trek under the stars. LL Bean provides the equipment AND some hot cocoa and snacks after. The tour is guided and the terrain is beginner and family friendly. Other starlight snowshoe tours on Jan. 12, Jan. 27, Feb. 23, and March 3.
Super Sauna Saturday
4-6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10
Nurture Through Nature Retreat Center, 77 Warren Road, Denmark
$15, $10 students
A sauna in the woods awaits at Nurture Though Nature, a retreat center located in Denmark. The center offers group retreats and workshops, yoga, and eco-cabin and yurt rentals. They also have a Finnish-style wood-fired sauna. (SAUNA!) That sauna is open to the public every Saturday from 4-6 p.m. October through March. They call it Super Sauna Saturday.
I checked it out last fall: Hike and Sauna Saturday: Pleasant Mountain + Nurture Through Nature, Denmark
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 17
Gilsland Farm, Gilsland Farm Road, Falmouth
Members free, Nonmembers $7, Children under 2 free
This family-friendly event includes snowshoeing (rentals available), scavenger hunt, story walk, snow science station, giant snow shelter, music, refreshments and more.
Ice Climb, Snowshoe & Soak Adventure
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24
It’s a jam-packed day of outdoor adventure and indoor relaxation. The day includes ice climbing with Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School, then some snowshoeing, then lunch in Bar Harbor, and finally a soak in a hot tub. Ahhhhh.
I went on this adventure last year: Ice climbing in Acadia National Park with Acadia Mountain Guides
ALSO: Maine Yoga Adventures leads fun adventures all year. See them all at maineyogaadventures.com
Pleasant Mountain Guided Snowshoe Hike
8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 24
Meets at Fogg Farm in Freeport (you’ll take a bus to the mountain)
BYO snowshoeing gear if you’ve got it, or L.L.Bean can provide you with all the necessary equipment, as well as a ride to the mountain and tips on technique. You’ll hike up with a guide and enjoy hot cocoa, lunch on the trail and stunning views! Then back on the bus for the return ride to Freeport.
Norway SnowShoe Festival
Feb. (dates TBD)
Roberts Farm Preserve, Norway
Cost varies per event
The Norway SnowShoe Festival includes three days of snowshoeing, snowshoe races, and the Snowshoe Games (like 3-legged race, 100-yard dash, egg & spoon, musical chairs, snowshoe wife-carry).
Liberal Cup Amateur Biathlon
8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, March 4
Hidden Valley Nature Center, Jefferson
$35, $10 kids and students
There are multiple categories for this amateur event – from novice to advanced – but really, it’s about having a good time skiin’ and shootin’ on the scenic grounds of Hidden Valley Nature Center. No experience skiing? No problem! You can even borrow skis (limited number). Never shot an air rifle before? No biggie! You’ll get a lesson. Plenty of beer, snacks and hot toddies to enjoy after your race!
1 p.m. Saturday, March 18
Shawnee Peak, 119 Mountain Road, Bridgton
$5 mattress registration plus lift ticket/season pass
No snowshoes or skis needed for this race. Just a mattress. Haul that old pillow-top to the mountain (and decorate it if you’re so inclined) and then race it down the course at Shawnee Peak. You never knew a mattress could be such a speed machine. The Fastest Mattress will win an overnight stay in the Pleasant Mountain Yurt or Cabin.
Rangeley Moose Dash Snowshoe Race
11:30 a.m. Sunday, March 18
Rangeley Lakes Trails Center, Saddleback Mountain Road, Rangeley
The 5K race is divided up by age categories and there’s also an untimed “tour” division, if you’re not in a racing mood. The course includes “wide straight-a-ways to gradual ascent and descents, to some aggressive hill climb/descent opportunities.”