From tubing to trampolines, there’s more to do than hit the slopes in Carrabassett Valley, Bethel and more.
Ski bums and snowboard addicts love this time of year, with its whiteout snowfalls and tooth-chatteringly chilly days. But even the most dedicated gondola riders occasionally get tapped out from a day on the trails. Fortunately, Maine’s ski towns have plenty of alternative cold- weather activities to keep you busy all weekend long, from bowling to skating to catching a blockbuster flick. Here’s our guide to enjoying a ski-town getaway when you’re sick of strapping in and spraying powder.
Day trips from Shawnee Peak
I’ll be the first to admit that Shawnee Peak is a blast and a half. But the Bridgton region has more to offer than many realize. For those who enjoy the speed of skiing but not the effort involved, book a sled dog tour with Ultimate Dog Sledding Experience. The pups do all the work, and you still get to enjoy the adrenaline-boosting sensation of sliding over the ice at breakneck speeds.
You know what also gets your blood pumping? Gambling. OK, admittedly, I don’t know this firsthand, but I’ve been told handing over your hard-earned money to a casino employee gives some people a heady rush. Find out for yourself at the Oxford Casino, located just 40 minutes from Shawnee Peak.
Another indoor option is the Magic Lantern Theater. It’s a retro-style cinema that harkens back to the days when movie theaters were called movie palaces and the big screen was known as the silver screen. At this funky joint, you can check out a movie while sipping locally brewed beers and a selection of affordable wines by the glass. Grab a seat in the 21-plus balcony if you’d like to imbibe.
Other eatery options in Bridgton include the Standard Gastropub, which serves upscale American food, and Black Horse Tavern. Visitors also gush about the wealth of antique shops that line routes 302 and 35. Dig through the wares at Crabapple Barn, Hidden Brook Antiques and Main Street Mercantile to unearth forgotten treasures.
Bethel and Newry
If you didn’t know you were in Maine, you might mistake Bethel for a charming little town nestled in the Rocky Mountains. (It reminds this writer quite a lot of Boulder, Colorado, and she means that as a compliment). There’s a worldliness to Bethel that makes it particularly appealing to foodies. For a quick bite, head over to Smokin’ Good BBQ, an iconic orange food truck that serves top-notch smoked meat, which comes drizzled in sauce and decked in smoked cashews. Or head into the nearby Good Food Store, where you’ll find an extensive array of natural and organic foods.
In town, Cho-Sun serves up shockingly good Korean and Japanese food. On winter weekends this joint is hopping, so you should probably make a reservation (824-7370). Make it a classic date by adding a trip to The Gem, a cool independent movie theater and art space that’s open Friday through Monday and features high-profile films like “Hidden Figures” and “Passengers.”
If you’re craving fresh air, take a hike to a frozen waterfall. Screw Auger Falls, located in nearby Newry, is a beautiful place to soak in the wonders of nature. This striking natural feature is over 40 feet wide and 980 feet long. It’s an easy walk from the parking lot to the falls, which makes it doable even for families with small kids. Another popular attraction in Newry is the famous Artists’ Covered Bridge. Originally built in 1811, this is supposedly the most painted bridge in the state. If you’re that handy with the watercolors, just bring an iPhone and throw a filter on that snapshot. Hardly anyone will know the difference.
Finally, you shouldn’t write off Sunday River Ski Resort just because you’re not much of a skier. For just $10 per hour, kids and adults can go tubing on the Sundance Trail at South Ridge. It’s a pretty popular activity, so staffers suggest you arrive early if you want to secure a tube.
While you’re at it, try to make a friend staying at the Grand Summit Hotel or book a room yourself. After a strenuous day of playing outside, the heated outdoor pool is just what you need.
Hands down, the No. 1 one best thing to do at Sugarloaf – including skiing and boarding – is soaking in the outdoor hot tub. It’s almost swimming pool-sized, which means you can practically tread water (if you lift your feet up) while gazing upon the snowcapped ridges of the Bigelow range. I love me a good hot tub, and few are prettier than the one at the Loaf.
Like most large resorts, Sugarloaf has multiple dining options. On the fancier end, there’s 45 North, an upscale eatery located in the main hotel. A personal favorite is The Rack, the raucous brewpub located further down the mountain, where the eats are good (and fatty) and the music is rocking.
If you’re feeling weighed down by all the food and drink, head to the 20,000-square-foot antigravity center, where there are trampolines, a skate bowl, a climbing wall, basketball courts and a weight room.
Another spot worth checking out is the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, which is located at the base of the mountain and provides snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals. Finally, if you want to inject a dose of culture into your trip, head to Kingfield, where you can gaze upon the nature-inspired works of art at the Schoolhouse Gallery. Nearby, the stately and historic Stanley Museum (housed inside a Georgian-style home built in 1903) provides a glimpse into what life was like in early 20th-century Maine, when steam powered engines and photographs had to be printed on glass and colored by hand.
While many winter tourists to the Rangeley Lakes Region had come for Saddleback, there are plenty who make the trek north to take advantage of the miles and miles of groomed snowmobile trails. If you want to ride sled, touch base with the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club. They’ve got trail maps, trail reports and plenty of rad events for speed freaks.
Another way to feed your need for speed is through good old-fashioned ice-skating. Haley Pond is a local hangout for figure skaters and hockey nerds alike. You can rent skates at Moose Loop Café, Bakery and Rentals. Once your butt is sore from hitting the ice one too many times, take a load off at Ecopelagicon, a nifty little nature store that has maps, camping supplies, crafts, cards and jewelry.
To try out the newest fad in winter sports, visit the Rangeley Lakes Trails Center, where there are several fat tire bikes available for rent. While you’re riding along, be sure to stop and check out the whimsical Gnome Homes that have been installed by art students at the Rangeley Lakes Regional School.
For an indoor thrill, join the locals at Moose Alley, a bowling alley that has the excellent tagline, “Rock, Roll, Bowl.” This cavernous house of fun boasts billiards tables, an arcade, a restaurant, concerts and bowling lanes. It’s not possible to reserve lanes in advance, so expect to kill time playing pinball if you get there during rush hour.