Best Outdoor Activities in Portland

Maine: The White Stuff for Premier Skate Skiing

A close cousin to the more traditional sport of Nordic skiing, Skate Skiing has quickly grown in popularity for those seeking something more extreme in their cross country skiing pursuits. And in Maine, Skate Skiers have found a place to call home. At first glance, Skate Skis resember the more well known Nordic skis. However, upon closer inspection, these skis feature some very apparent differences. First, they are shorter than cross country skis. Second, the underside of these skis lack any tread whatsoever. Both features enable skate skiiers to literally race along cross country ski trails. This reality is, of course, the very reason that winter athletes find this sport so appealing. Their primary objective is continuous, uniform speed along Nordic ski trails. The result is an outdoor activity ideally suited for those who favor fast, aerobic-building and adrenaline pumping activities. Maine cross country ski centers have enthusiastically accommodate skate skiing fans by extending their groomed, tracked trails. We now present ten such centers which have excelled in meeting the interest and passion for Skate Skiing.



Birches Ski Touring Center
Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik

Located in the heart of Maine's Great North Woods, the Birches Resort in Rockwood features a top notch cross country skiing operation that has quickly become a favorite with Nordic and skate skiers alike. The Birches Ski Touring Center features 40 kilometers of groomed trails, as well as 50 kilometers of ungroomed trails, on an 11,000-acre private reserve. Skate skiers will enjoy moving along the groomed trails which course through thick, pristine forest. The trails are well laid out through a variety of terrain – from level and flat to slightly upland with appealing twists and turns. Skate skiers are drawn to the opportunity of enjoying their sport

Local Expert tip: Check out the Birches ski and stay packages.

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Sugarloaf Skate Skiing
Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik

Sugarloaf's Outdoor Center has become one of the premier destinations in Maine's Carrabasset Valley for skate skiing. The vast majority of its more than 90 kilometers of cross country ski trails (one of the most extensive trail networks in the Northeast) are ideal for skaters of all levels and abilities. Because these trails feature deep, ideally shaped grooves, they are especially skate ski-worthy. Fans of this outdoor activity are frequently able to build up significant speed over considerable distances along Sugarloaf trails. Skate skiers will also be pleased with the remarkable variety of trails that include everything from gentle, rolling terrain to downhill-type slopes. Those new to the sport may want to consider renting skate skis at the Outdoor Center lodge, which also features plenty of delicious snacks and beverages.

Local Expert tip: Sugarloaf offers some of the best skate skiing opportunities in western Maine.

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Maine Huts and Trails Skate Skiing
Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik

The magic of skate skiing the extensive trail network of Maine Huts and Trails is its rustic, backwoods atmosphere. This non-profit, land preservation organization has established more than 45 miles of well-maintained and preserved trails that are ideal for classic Nordic and skate skiing. These trails were originally the old logging roads that spanned throughout the Carrabasset Valley. As such, skate skiers will be treated to some of the most breathtaking, mountain landscape scenery available in Maine The trails themselves are wide and smooth with many professionally groomed on a regular basis. As a result, skate skiers often enjoy superior speed and momentum during most runs. Along the way, you can enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea, sandwiches and desserts at Maine Hust and Trails' lodges that can be found along their trail system. Overnight lodging in the well-appointed huts is also possible with advance reservations.

Local Expert tip: There is no charge for use of Maine Huts and Trails pathways.

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Harris Farm Skate Skiing
Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik

Those seeking prime skate skiing – but don't necessarily want to travel several hours to enjoy their sport – would do well to check out Harris Farm. Located in nearby Dayton, less than a half hour north of Portland, Harris Farm offers a quaint, rural atmosphere for skate skiing devotees. During the winter off-season, Harris Farm is just that – a working farm – with a choice selection of fresh fruits and vegetables available for sale. In winter, when harvesting season is past, Harris Farm opens up its expansive acreage to more than 40 kilometers of Nordic skiing trails. More than 30 kilometers of these trails are groomed and maintained to create conditions that are just right for first class skate skiing. The generally level terrain enables skate skiers to ramp up quickly to smooth, fast glides with few impediments to their journeys. The trails also encompass slightly hilly landscape through fields and forest, creating a nice backdrop for any skate skiing experience. Be sure to enjoy Harris Farm's warming hut featuring a comfy wood stove, hot chocolate, plenty of yummy snacks.

Local Expert tip: Harris Farm offers prime skate skiing near Portland.

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Carter's Cross Country Skate Skiing
Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik

Spectacular scenery is the big draw for skate skiing at Carter's Cross Country Ski Center. With locations in Oxford and nearby Bethel, Carter's Cross Country Ski Centers are a family run operation which expertly cater to Nordic and skate skiers of all levels. Carter's Oxford location features 40 kilometers of trails while in Bethel it offers 55 kilometers of trails. These meticulously groomed paths course over terrain that features gentle dips and turns – great for skate skiers seeking to master their momentum over diverse landscape. Several of the trails border the beautiful banks of the Androscoggin River, with local mountain ranges adding even more to the picturesque background. For those new to the sport, Carter's Cross Country Ski Centers offer skate ski rentals, along with expert tips and advice on getting the most out of this winter outdoor activity.

Local Expert tip: Carter's courses offer some of the best scenery of the nearby Androscoggin River.

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Maine Winter Sports Center
Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik

Located near the Canadian border in Fort Kent and Presque Isle, the Maine Winter Sports Center has quickly become one of the top destinations in the Nordic skiing and skate skiing world. When first considered, the Maine Winter Sports Center was seen as a salvation to the depressed local economy (which was hard hit by paper plant and logging operations closings). In many ways, the center has succeeded in its mission. Nordic and biathlon skiing teams from throughout the world have taken advantage of the Maine Winter Sports Center's superb facilities. For skate skiers, this operation features more than 45 kilometers of Nordic and skate skiing bliss (25 at the 10th Mountain Center and 20 at the Nordic Heritage Center). Trails course over a wide variety of terrain – from slightly hilly to level. Most of the trails are expertly groomed with many deep grooves for exceptional skate skiing. There are no trail pass fees for the Nordic Heritage Center. True, it may be a long trip to reach the Maine Winter Sports Center but it is well worth the journey!

Local Expert tip: Many of the ski courses at the Maine Winter Sports Center are open to the public, free of charge.

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Bethel Inn Ski Touring Center
Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik

Bethel is known as the Nordic skiing capital of Maine. One of the attractions which have helped this mountain community earn its reputation is the Bethel Inn Ski Touring Center. Located at the tastefully appointed Bethel Inn in downtown Bethel, the Bethel Inn Ski Touring Center features 25 kilometers of premier cross country ski trails that are ideal for skate skiing fans. These trails are regularly groomed to create among the best conditions possible for skate skiing. Those seeking sleek and fast journeys on their skate skiis will enjoy these trails which course through fields, forest and gentle sloping terrain. Rentals are available and trail pass prices are reasonable. Of course, if you are so inclined, the Bethel Inn offers great lodging accommodations, as well.

Local Expert tip: The Bethel Inn Ski Touring Center also has nice offerings of ski and stay packages.

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Black Mountain of Maine Touring Center
Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik

Located in western Maine, not far from Farmington, the Black Mountain of Maine Touring Center has firmly established itself as a premier destination for cross country skiing and skate skiing. This ski center features 35 kilometers of wide, tracked trails – one of the largest trail systems in Maine – that are ideal of skate skiers of all abilities. The consistency of the extensive tracked trails means that skate skiers can enjoy long outings of fast, powerful skiing. Because many of these trails are also hilly, they offer a superior challenges for those whose skills are intermediate to advanced in this quick moving outdoor winter sport. In addition, because Black Mountain offers snow making on 4 kilometers of trails, you can expect snow over a respectable portion of their property. It makes for a great day of adventurous skate skiing.

Local Expert tip: Black Mountain is often the chosen location of Olympic cross country skiing competitions.

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Big Rock Skiway
Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik

Located not far from the Canadian border near Presque Isle, the Bigrock Skiway at Mars Hill has long been a prominent fixture in the Maine alpine skiing community. It's northern Maine location means that snow – and skiing – are available even during seasons when the white stuff is scarce in southern portions of the state. In recent years, Bigrock has responded to growing interest in cross country skiing by establishing a well run outdoor center. This operation features more than 40 kilometers of trails that course through woods and fields. There is enough diversity of trails to accommodate skate skiers of varying level of abilities – from beginners to more advanced. Skate skiers can enjoy everything from level terrain for fast take-offs to more challenging upland and hilly courses. Be sure to check out the lodge which features hot sandwiches, soups and snacks.

Local Expert tip: Even during seasons when snow is not in abundance, Big Rock Skiway has skate skiing opportunities.

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Sunday River Skate Skiing
Photo courtesy of Mark Pechenik

Sunday River has done a great job of accommodating the growing sport of skate skiing. The grooved sections of their 20 plus cross country ski trails are ideal for fans of skate skiing. Meticulously maintained, these grooves are both smooth and clear – ideal for skate skiers looking to both build and maintain their pace along the trails. The trails also course over a welcome diversity of terrain. Trails closest to the Sunday River Outdoor Center lodge are level enough for new skiers (or those looking to reacquaint themselves with the sport for another winter) to build confidence and speed. Further away, the trails span over rolling ground with accessible dips and turns. For the more adventurous skate skiers, there are several trails that resemble mini-downhill slopes. All of the trails are also well marked. Skate ski rentals are available at the lodge. It is also possible relax at the lodge with friends and coffee after an aggressive day of skate skiing.

Local Expert tip: Check out the prime offering of skate ski rentals at the Outdoor Center's shop.

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