When it comes to great skiing, Maine is definitely a place that values quality over quantity. While there may be just 18 designated ski areas in the entire state, most of those resorts offer a great experience. Not only do they offer a good value in terms of terrain for all levels, but they also tend to be less crowded and more accessible than the famous ski mountains found in Colorado, Utah, and California.
If you're planning a trip to Maine and want to shred fresh powder while you're there, these are the places that you should have on your short list. Not only do they provide an excellent on-hill experience, but each of them has a unique character that is all their own.
Easily the most well known and largest of the ski resorts in Maine, Sugarloaf has been in operation near Carrabassett Valley since the 1950s. Spread out across more than 1,240 skiable acres, it also happens to be one of the largest ski resorts east of the Mississippi. The 4,237-foot mountain from which it derives its name also provides plenty of thrills for skiers looking for plenty of speed. Newcomers will feel right at home though, as nearly a quarter of the 162 trails found there are designated specifically for beginners. With a lift system designed to move 21,000 passenger each and every hour, you won't have to wait in line for very long either. And since Sugarloaf averages more than 200 inches of snow each year, it is one of the most reliable ski destinations in the entire eastern United States.
Sunday River Ski Resort
If there is a ski destination in Maine that can rival Sugarloaf in terms of quality, it is most definitely Sunday River. Located in the town of Newry, this resort makes the most of its 870 skiable acres, providing access to no fewer than eight mountain peaks and more than 135 tails. With a vertical drop of more than 2,340 feet, some of those runs can stretch several miles in length. The fast, efficient, and modern lift system makes it easy to reach any point on the hill, allowing skiers and snowboarders to get in as many runs as they like during their day on the slopes. The well groomed snow and interconnected trail system make this a great spot for beginners, though more experienced shredders will love the tree skiing routes which can feel wild and isolated at times.
After being closed for five seasons, Saddleback Mountain made a triumphant return in 2020. During that time, the venerable resort saw some impressive upgrades, including the addition of a new high-speed lift, modern snowmaking equipment, and a significantly improved lodge. Found just outside the town of Rangeley, Saddleback has long been a favorite amongst locals. That makes it somewhat of a hidden gem, with shorter lines, less traffic, and a more relaxed feel than some of the larger, more well-known Maine ski resorts. Don't let its laid back vibe fool you however, as this is a hill that will test your skill and resolve. The approximately 2,000-foot vertical drop from the summit can be fast, technical, and demanding, making this a popular destination for advanced and expert skiers. Many come to take on the extremely steep chutes and deep powder found in Saddleback's wide open glades. These terrain features often remind visitors of the more famous ski destinations found out west, which only adds to the overall allure.
At just 250 acres in size, it would be easy to dismiss Shawnee Peak as a ski destination that might not be worth your time. But you'd be hard pressed to find a more family-friendly destination in the entire state of Maine. Located outside of Bridgton—just a short distance from Portland—this resort is easy to get to for both full- and half-day excursions. Better still, Shawnee's 40 trails and seven glades are perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders who are still perfecting their skills. For a truly unique experience, head to the resort after dark for some outstanding night skiing. When the lights illuminate the trails, it can be a delight for even the most well-traveled and experienced shredders. And since more than 98 percent of the trails are covered by snow making guns, there is always a good base of powder throughout the winter season.
Camden Snow Bowl
Camden Snow Bowl may not overwhelm you with impressive statistics—it features just 20 trails and 105 skiable acres—but the breathtaking views from the summit will almost certainly leave an impression. After all, where else can you go skiing with the Atlantic Ocean and the waters of nearby Penobscot Bay as a backdrop? This hill is another Maine resort that has something to offer just about every experience level, and its affordable prices make it a great bargain for those on a budget. Snowboarders will appreciate the two onsite terrain parks and several of the trails are open for night skiing too, giving the resort a unique feel that is all it sown.
Mt. Abram Ski Area
Located not far from Sunday River, Mt. Abram Ski Area is a popular choice for locals looking to escape the crowds. This beginner-friendly destination has one of the top ski schools in the region, helping newbies and veterans alike to improve their form. And after taking a lesson or two, you can test those new skills on one of 36 different trails found throughout the resort's 450 skiable acres. Advanced skiers looking for a little extra fun can even sign up for a backcountry excursion, taking them off piste into the nearby wilderness. The hill even hosts weekly ski races and is a top destination for families looking for a relaxed, worry-free location that everyone can enjoy. Sunday has even been designated as "family day" on the hill with discount lift tickets available.
Maine's most-northerly ski resort is found near the town of Mars Hill. That's the location of Bigrock Mountain, a ski and snowboarding area that has been in operation for more than 60 years. In keeping with the theme of most of Maine's ski destinations, Bigrock is very accommodating to beginners and families. Most of its 35 trails are designed specifically with those visitors in mind, offering gentle and easy-to-navigate routes. That said, there are still a few of those trails that will provide advanced skiers with a thrill. Other attractions include night skiing on the weekend, a large terrain park with more than 20 obstacles to ride, and a popular snow tubing run that stretches for more than 800 feet.
Lost Valley Ski Area
When it opened back in 1961, Lost Valley was a family-owned and -operated business, and although it has changed ownership several times throughout the years, it has remained very family-friendly ever since. With just four lifts and 45 acres of skiable area, it would be easy to overlook Lost Valley altogether. But the resort makes up for its diminutive size with some surprisingly fun, unique, and interesting runs. To make things even more interesting, the difficulty ratings for each of the trails is almost equally distributed across beginner, intermediate, and advanced runs, making this a high-quality destination with something to offer just about everyone. Add in a couple of terrain parks, the option for night skiing, and a few other fun amenities—like ski races, snowshoeing, and tubing—and you quickly start to realize why this is yet another popular ski hill amongst the locals.
Black Mountain of Maine
If affordable fun on the slopes is what you're looking for, Black Mountain of Maine can certainly accommodate. The resort offers some of the best deals in the entire state, including steeply discount lift tickets on Fridays for those looking to get the weekend started early. With its 1,300 vertical feet of descent and 50 trails covering more than 10 miles, there is a lot to explore here. Multiple lifts help keep the crowds moving along at a brisk pace too, allowing you to spend more time on the hill and less in line. Non-skiers will have a blast on Black Mountain's tubing runs, while those who prefer their skiing be more horizontal in nature will find the nordic trails more to their liking.
New Hermon Mountain Ski Area
Travel just 10 minutes outside of Bangor and you'll find New Hermon Mountain, another family-owned and -operated ski resort that has been around for more than 30 years. New Hermon offers group lessons, individual private lessons, and even a four-week long learn to ski package to help beginners get up and running. Once they do, the resorts 20 trails will keep them occupied for awhile, along with its 350-foot vertical drop and frequent fresh powder. Affordable tickets, a tubing area, and night skiing all help to make this a fun and fulfilling destination for any skier looking to experience what Maine has to offer.