It’s a small historical irony that Swedish immigrants were the ones to import Nordic skiing to Maine back in the nineteenth century. Folks up in the vast, rural, and snow-prone third of the state known as Aroostook County (or simply, “The County”) used ten-foot, hand-hewn wooden skis to get around back then. It took a few decades for cross-country skiing to pick up as a recreational pursuit rather than a practical one, but once it did, Mainers took to it like born plankers. This should come as no surprise—Maine’s rolling hills and consistent snowfall make it a natural fit. Today, Maine hosts national and world championships in both Nordic skiing and biathlon (that’s skiing and shooting, in case you forgot), and Olympians train at the facilities of the Maine Winter Sports Center in Aroostook County. Not that you need to go that far north to find great cross-country ski trails. These standouts offer stunning terrain and plenty of snow and solitude in every corner of the state.
Hidden Valley Nature Center
Volunteers groom about ten miles of trail and leave another ten for backcountry exploration at this small nature preserve on the midcoast. The terrain is surprisingly varied, from rocky ledges to thick woods to open lakeshore. Ski rentals are available, as are cabins and one large, romantic yurt if you feel like making it an overnight.
Acadia National Park
One of the classic winter activities in any National Park, 32 miles of Acadia’s historic carriage roads are groomed every year for cross-country skiing, showing off the dramatic seaside peaks of Mount Desert Island in its quiet season. Watch for footprints of foxes and snowshoe hares, even the occasional moose.
Sugarloaf Outdoor Center
The biggest ski resort in the East doesn’t leave Nordic skiers out in the cold. A whopping 60 miles of nicely signed trails, maintained for both classic and skate skiing, surround a handsome and recently renovated central lodge. After a long day on the trails, hot chocolate by the huge fireplace is a must.
Northern Timber Cruisers Trails
An impeccably groomed trail system just northwest of Millinocket, the Timber Cruisers trails wind through 20 miles of fens and woodlands in the shadow of Mount Katahdin. The humble A-frame warming house is tiny, but a blazing woodstove and a stunning Katahdin view help skiers thaw out.
Nordic Heritage Sport Club
This is Swedish settler country, where cross-country skiing took off in Maine, and pros train today on the center’s 12 groomed miles of varied terrain. There’s also a biathlon range, for those who want to get some target practice in with their skiing, and a terrain park that’s perfect for beginner’s to practice edging and turning.