The Maine winter is late to bloom this year, but the last big snowfall made it possible for the cross-country ski season to finally begin. And with that snow, two new Nordic ski trails, one in Camden and another in Greenville, became usable for the first time.
The Camden Snow Bowl’s new Nordic ski trail, named 22 Tacks Loop Trail for the route’s 22 turns, officially opened Saturday morning. A kiosk — where maps are available — marks the beginning of the 1.8-mile loop to the left of the tubing hill.
“It’s definitely not a beginner trail,” said Jeff Kuller, general manager of Camden Snow Bowl. “It’s rigorous going up, and you have to really be able to control your skiing coming down. But it’s fine if you’re a decent intermediate skier and can do a good snowplow, check your speed and know how to fall correctly — because you will fall,” he added, laughing.
For beginners, they’ll groom a loop on Hosmer Pond. The Camden Snow Bowl also has two snowshoe trails. Unlike the downhill ski area, these trails are free to access, though donations are welcome to defray trail grooming costs.
The 22 Tacks Loop Trail cost about $115,000 and was built during the summer with Nordic skiers in mind, Kuller said. It’s 16 feet across — wide enough for both skate skiing and in-track skiing — and has four substantial bridges. And when the snow melts, it can be used for mountain biking and hiking.
A grant from the state Recreational Trails Program covered about one-third of the trail’s cost, and the remaining funding was raised by individuals in the community as a part of the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Redevelopment Project, a $6.5 million plan to revamp the Camden Snow Bowl.
The steepest part of the trail is in the beginning, where it climbs the hillside. The trail then levels off and weaves through mixed hardwood forest. The loop links to a narrower trail system on Coastal Mountain Land Trust Property, which may also be groomed for skiing.
“We don’t know how much of a demand [for Nordic skiing] there is because there aren’t many Nordic trails around here,” said Kuller, who has been skiing since his high school days. “We do know [Camden Hills Regional High School] has a ski team, and there used to be Nordic ski races in the 1970s from Camden to Rockport.”
“It’s one of the best exercises,” he said. “You can do it your whole life. I met a guy on the trail the other day that was in his 80s and he’s a Nordic ski instructor.”
While Camden was formerly lacking Nordic ski trails, Greenville has long been home to a wealth of groomed trails, including an extensive network owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club. And this winter, AMC is adding another route to their lodge-to-lodge cross-country ski network, which will officially open Thursday, Jan. 19, along with AMC’s three rustic lodges for skiers who plan to spend a few days in the wilderness and are looking for a warm place to stay with homemade meals.
“We try to open right after Christmas,” said Shannon LeRoy, AMC Greenville office and programs manager. “Even if you can’t do a lot of skiing, you can usually do something out there, but this year, it was just solid ice, and ice is not a good thing.”
The new trail is called the Gorman Lodge Trail and serves as a second route to the Gorman Chairback Lodge, which opened last year on Long Pond.
The original route to Gorman Chairback Lodge is 8.3 miles. Starting at the AMC winter parking lot — 10.4 miles from Greenville on KI Road — skiers continue on KI Road, turn right onto Trout Brook Trail and then Long Pond Trail, which leads to Gorman Chairback Lodge around the south side of Long Pond.
The new route is just 7.5 miles. It also begins at the AMC winter parking lot, but instead of turning onto Trout Brook Trail, continue on KI Road to Hedgehog Gate and turn right. In 2.1 miles, turn right onto Gorman Lodge Trail. This trail connects to Deadwater Trail and Long Pond Road and then leads around the north side of Long Pond to Gorman Chairback Lodge.
Not only is the new trail a shorter route to the lodge, it connects formerly separated trails, creating a number of loops (including a loop around Long Pond).
But that’s not all that’s new about the AMC trail network in Greenville. Return guests to Little Lyford will notice a big change. The interior of main lodge was completely renovated between October and December.
“We’ve also got some new grooming equipment, so our trails will be groomed much sooner and better than in the past,” said LeRoy.
It seems to be this year’s trend: making things better for winter recreationists. So now that there’s a bit of snow cover, consider exploring these brand new trails. People around the state worked hard to carve them out of the great Maine wilderness.
Correction: An early version of this story requires correction. Camden Snow Bowl's new Nordic trail is called 22 Tacks Loop Trail, not 22 Tracks.