Winter Tourism: Part II
Hiking, camping, or heading to the beach are often the first ideas when it comes to vacation in Maine. But if you head outside during the winter months, you can find lots of things to do with family and friends.
At the New England Outdoor Center in Millinocket, you will find far more snowmobiles than you will cars.
"I would say our winter is as busy as we are in summer time for those people who know about all those opportunities,” Director of Marketing Ailsh Keating. "We rent snowmobiles so if somebody arrives they can have all the equipment and gear that they will need to get on the sled, they could have a guide if they want them to go with them. So it makes it very, very accessible. You don't need to know the trails or how to operate a snowmobile to have a good day out."
Many of their patrons will stay for multiple days, heading in to on-site cabins at night and dining out at local restaurants. But riding sleds isn't the only winter activity available to visitors.
"It's such a diverse area and I'm not sure people realize,” said Wende Sairio, Director of the Millinocket Chamber of Commerce. “The Monument has some wonderful cross country ski trails, there's snowshoeing, and it's all over these little pockets everywhere. It's not just in Millinocket or just up in the Monument. There's places all around the region."
"If you don't want to snowmobile for 4 days and you want to go snowshoeing, we can have snowshoes for you. If you want to go skiing, we also have ski instructors,” said Keating. “So if you want to go cross country skiing or skate skiing we can give instruction in those two as well. So you can learn a lot of things that you've never done before in three or four days."
So we strapped on our skis, some of us for the first time, and headed out on the trail. And despite an early hiccup or two, we were soon flying down through the snow.
"We have about 15 miles of trails that are groomed and they are groomed nice and wide and they're very interesting,” said Keating. “They're not just flat. They're very active trails so once you learn and get your skills down, they are a lot of fun."
All across Maine, there is ample opportunity to turn a cold winter day into a fun outing. The state boasts more than 15 ski resorts along with sledding hills, and snowshoeing trails. For a bit of a calmer pace you can head out to a frozen lake to go ice fishing. Winter festivals can also be found in cities and towns as well as special events like the National Toboggan Championships in Camden. Of course you can always just take in the sights.
"In winter, the beauty of the snow it's exhilarating and especially up here there's a lot of areas where there's not a lot of people and you're just out in the wilderness, you're trudging through a gorgeous winter wonderland basically,” said Susan Mathias, an employee of Woods & Water Shop in Millinocket. “It's just a beautiful area."
"There's lots of wonderful hidden gems that you can get to if you call and get some information,” said Sairio. Then you can go and do it in a peaceful, quiet place not one that has 50 million other people which is one of the beauties of up here."