How to survive a Maine winter


Look at you, sitting in front of the television like a lump of dirty clothes. Go outside, my friend. Get some fresh air and exercise. Just because it’s cold and the land is a dead thing buried in snow, that’s no reason to mope. Why, back in my day, we went outside every chance we got. We built snow forts and slid down hills a mile long. It was keen. You people have no idea.

OK, I’m spent. The truth is, I’m a moper as well. I want to be one of those guys who gets all jacked up to hit the slopes following an afternoon of snowshoeing through the mountains of Bethel. I want to go ice fishing and snowmobiling and snowboarding every weekend; to drink lite beer in the lodges, Jack Daniels in the fishing shack.

And I would do every one of those things, too, if the temperature would just climb up to 70 degrees and if all that hateful snow would just get out of the way. Instead, I just stay home, embracing cabin fever like a lover and grousing about how there’s just nothing to do in wintertime.

Well, I stand corrected. I asked for a few examples of what to do on those bleak winter days and there was an onslaught. The trick, as I understand it, is to embrace the season. Slip your pale arms around winter’s thick midsection and give it a kiss on the mouth.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

“I love what you can do with snow and ice if you’re dressed properly,” says Dan Bilodeau, who practically invented the concept of winter fun. “Tonight I dumped 200 gallons on our pond using a 55-gallon barrel, 30 gallons at a time and a little engineering so tomorrow the surface looks like a Zamboni hit it. Tomorrow I pack and play on the multi-use trails near the Lake Auburn Community Center.”

Showoff, that guy. And that’s just stuff he does in his private time. Bilodeau is also a member of the Lewiston-Auburn Optimists Club, which hosts kid sliding, bon fires, hot cocoa and s’mores at Lost Valley. And he’s the Perkins Ridge Sno-Travelers trail boss, which presents a Community Center trail event today (Jan. 27). And an Androscoggin Valley snowmobile open house and trail ride. And he’s on the Winterfest Committee.

How are you feeling now, lump? As mid-winter approaches — Feb. 4, if you’re counting down the days — here’s a few things to consider when you crawl out from under the bed.

* In Auburn, its Winterfest started last Friday (Jan. 25) and runs until Feb. 3, with most events from Feb. 1-3. If you can’t find something to do there, you might be clinically dead. The event list just goes on and on. Pond hockey, storytelling, snow rafting, groomer rides, cross-country skiing, bonfire, ice sculpture, music, shovel racing, a parade, public skating, cardboard box sliding.

“Auburn’s Winter Festival is a celebration of everything winter,” advises the intro on the festival web page. “Winter is the longest of our three seasons here in Maine, so why not get out and enjoy it?”

Sounds logical. The festival takes place mainly at Lost Valley, but there are other locations involved, including Walton School, Mount Apatite and Ingersoll Arena. Visit for more information.

* In Lewiston, it’s all about the ice. The Ice Festival of Lewiston/Auburn, running Feb. 22 to 24, is a celebration of all things frozen. The inaugural IceFest L/A is being billed as a “three-day extravaganza of deliciously frosty beverages served up with a twist” from three sculpted ice bars. The freezing-good time takes place at DaVinci’s restaurant and is a fundraiser for L/A Arts.

But don’t just sit there drinking. You can do that at home.

“The fun won’t stop there,” according to energetic organizers, “because the plaza will be filled with over a dozen free-standing ice sculptures from our sponsoring businesses and some great music to keep your blood flowing into the evening.” And let’s not leave out: “light hors d’oeuvres from a variety of local restaurants!”

That’s just Friday night. Saturday night will offer more of the same, while Sunday’s afternoon event will be family oriented and feature hot cocoa, mulled cider and ice sculptures everywhere you turn. We told you: It’s all about the ice. More info:

* There’s a winter carnival in Naples, too. It’s Feb. 9 and brought to you by the Muddy River Sno Seekers. This one features fireworks, helicopter rides and a fishing derby. For more info, visit

* Up the road a sneeze, you’ll find the Bethel WinterFest running Feb. 9 through 24. “Three weekends of winter fun in Bethel,” declares the event website. “We’re building a Snowcano, that’s right, a volcano made of snow, to celebrate the season!” There’s also sledding, snowshoeing, concerts and other stuff to help shake off the winter blues. The volcano erupts Feb. 16, just after dark. More info at

* Bridgton is the site of the annual Musher’s Bowl, which ends today (Jan. 27). The timing is unfortunate – as of this publication, the events will be entering their second day and those events sound pretty darn cool. ““Mush!” “Hike!” “Haw!” “Gee!” “Easy!” Learn these commands and maybe you can go mushing (dog sled riding) or skijoring (cross-country skiing pulled by a dog team). Or maybe you could just go along for the ride while the mushers drive their dogs. Loon Echo Land Trust is also holding moderate snowshoe hikes to the summit of Bald Pate Mountain for the event.

* On Sunday, Feb. 10, in Mechanic Falls, the first annual Vintage Snowmobile Race gets going at Harvest Hill Farms. “We are inviting owners of vintage snowmobiles from 1973 and earlier with single or twin-cylinder fan-cooled engines to bring their cherished machines to the farm to compete for trophies and bragging rights for the fastest machine! This will be great day of fun for the whole family to enjoy,” say promoters. More info at

* In Hallowell, on Feb. 18, it’s Mardi Gras. Activities will include a community mask contest, trivia contest, face painting, a Mardi Gras Parade and a Mardi Gras Ball. Find out more at

* At Sebago Lake, there’s the yearly ice fishing derby that features professional ice sculpture carving, a polar dip (count me out this time) and a snowmobile speed run, among many other activities. It happens Feb. 16 and 17. You know the drill. Go to to find out more.

* The town of China is doing its part to keep the sport of ice hockey on people’s minds by hosting the first Maine Pond Hockey Classic, Feb. 9 and 10. Three rinks for four-on-four hockey will be made on the north end of China Lake near The Landing restaurant. The tournament will have four divisions: Open, 40+, Recreational and Women’s, with a limit of seven players per team. There will be raffle prizes and a benefit auction in addition to two days of games. Find out more at

Finally, if festivals and events are all fine, but you’re looking for winter-survival tips with a more personalized nature, consider Karen Bate-Pelletier of Lewiston, who grew up in Maine but has come to “HATE” winter in an all-capital-letters kind of way.

“So, how do I cope? Copious amount of vitamin D, my sun lamp (called a ‘Happy Light’), as much traveling to sunny, warm, palm-tree-infested climates as possible, my calendar with pictures of tropical islands and a candle in my office called ‘Caribbean Escape’ that smells like fruity coconut drinks with umbrellas.” (For more from Karen, as well as some pro-winter points to ponder from cold-lover Harold in Peru, see our related story: “He said, she said.”)

He said, she said

You know how it is. If you get to whining about the grind of winter, you’ll find either someone to outright commiserate with you or someone to demand that you stop that belly-aching. Me: I found one of each.

Karen Bate-Pelletier

“Yes, I HATE snow. Yes, I despise the cold! Move? Not an option due to family, although many would say if you don’t like it then get out!

“I have lived here in Maine all of my life. My hatred toward the winter season has gotten so much worse as I have gotten older. When I was a kid, it was nearly impossible to get me to come in from outside, regardless of the weather. Laying on the ground during a snowstorm and letting the snowflakes hit my face was fun when I was a kid. Not anymore. As soon as October 1 hits the calendar, my anxiety starts. I keep the windows open at night and listen as the summer sounds grow more faint with each passing night, until there is nothing. And that’s when I know my beautiful warm weather is really over for another season. So it begins, the cold, the darkness, and my desire to hibernate with the other creatures.

“So, how do I cope? Copious amount of vitamin D, my sun lamp (called a ‘Happy Light’), as much traveling to sunny, warm, palm-tree-infested climates as possible, my calendar with pictures of tropical islands and a candle in my office called ‘Caribbean Escape’ that smells like fruity coconut drinks with umbrellas.

“I dream of the days when I can become a southern snow bird and bid adieu to the Maine winters. For now, I will be dreaming of summer time when all seems right in my world. When crickets and peepers lull me to sleep at night and the birds wake me up in the morning with their cheerful summer songs!”

Harold in Peru

“We have two very good reasons to stay in Maine year around. First is family. My wife and I have three sons, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. One grandchild lives two hours from us and another about 30 minutes away. All others live within five miles of us. We get together pretty often with most of them.

“As for the second reason for staying in Maine through the winter months, when I hear folks complain about the cold and snow, I remind them that this “foul weather” is probably what keeps the poisonous snakes and spiders down south, along with the alligators. I am OK with that. The only effect the cold and snow has, is that it might cancel a basketball game or something like that.

“I have not been to Hawaii, but have visited or at least passed through a part of the other 49 states and all of the Canadian provinces. Even walked across the border into Mexico and back. Much prefer Maine and central Maine especially to all the other places. It is a great place to live.”