Known locally as "the Loaf," this ski area 110 mi/175 km north of Portland has the third-tallest peak (4,237 ft/1,291 m) in New England. It lies in the Carrabassett Valley of the Longfellow Mountains. Every level of skier, from beginner to expert, will find suitable terrain on this vast mountain with its 125 interconnecting trails and 14 lifts (2,820-ft/860-m vertical drop). For the more adventurous, powder skiing on the snowfield above the tree line is a must, especially in the springtime.
The village at the base of the mountain contains numerous condominiums, lodges, stores and restaurants. Other winter sports are available—snowmobiling, ice skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing—as are racquetball and swimming. If you're visiting in early December, don't miss Sugarloaf's Yellow-Nosed Vole Day. Skiers turn out in wacky costumes to help commemorate this endangered species. The resort also houses a golf course for summertime recreation (http://www.sugarloaf.com).
Also in the area is Saddleback Ski Area and Summer Lake Preserve, 12 mi/20 km southwest of Sugarloaf/USA. This ski area is relatively small—five lifts and 40 runs, both novice and advanced. From the 4,116-ft/1,255-m summit (the third highest in Maine), the panorama is exhilarating, revealing views of Canada, New Hampshire and the wilderness of Maine's woods and lakes. Accommodations in the area are a mix of older country inns and lodges that have housed summer visitors for years, plus newer establishments built to accommodate the influx of skiers. The advantages to booking a ski vacation in this uncrowded wilderness area are that rates are relatively inexpensive, the lift lines are short, and the atmosphere is laid-back and family oriented (http://www.saddlebackmaine.com).
Another area option (in good weather) is to hike on a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Try the 11-mi/18-km Bigelow Loop on Bigelow Mountain, north of the Carrabassett Valley. The views over Flagstaff Lake to Canada are some of Maine's best.
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