For Cross-country Skiing, Cross Your Fingers and Head North

Development Coordinator Sarah Andre shares some of her favorite ski spots in the Katahdin Region. A resident of southern Maine, traveling to the Katahdin Region in winter is her favorite perk of working for Friends! The photos and words below reflect conditions on January 29th, 2024. As of February 29th, a major rain and warming event has closed many local ski destinations. All photos credit FKWW.

I love to cross-country ski. Maybe you do, too. Growing up in the eighties, my first ski trips were on short wooden skis with rubber buckles that went over my regular snow boots (lined with plastic bread bags) on the lumpy snowmobile trails around our home in the western Maine foothills. That wasn’t that much fun by itself, but fortunately my parents knew the power of a bag of m’n’ms and a “secret” camp in the woods, upon whose porch we’d rest. On the high school Nordic team I mastered classic and skate techniques, and gained a lifelong passion, if not podiums.

A young girl on cross country skis looks at the sky.
Sharing the beauty of winter with my kids.

Today, I live just a few miles inland from Casco Bay where the skiing gets worse each year. Compared to just a few years ago, snowstorms are smaller, less frequent, and very often immediately followed by rain and rising temperatures. Driving past our local golf course that functions as a touring center in winter, only a few slushy white islands dot the rolling brown landscape and summon a weird sadness that feels too frivolous to indulge. I taught my children to ski here over the last ten years, with the hope to give them a source of joy in winter, a place with icy blue skies and frozen eyelashes, woodland critters’ dramas told in footprints, and clouds of exertion that culminate with scenic vistas, eagle sightings, and tepid hot cocoas sloshed on your gloves. Only time will tell if they keep on skiing after I no longer facilitate, but we have had a lot of fun sliding in the snow so far!

For now, we skinny skiers hope this year is an exceptional outlier in its dearth of snow, and so head north to sustain our passion. I am privileged to travel to the Katahdin Region regularly for work, but I hope that this post will inspire other enthusiasts to head north! It has been just four weeks since my two days of fabulous skiing in the Katahdin Region, and I fear that the snowpack will be challenged by the warmth and rain falling at the end of February 2024. Fortunately, the folks who maintain trails in the national monument and the region report on conditions regularly so you can check up on the three spots I hit, plus several more, before you go. Don’t miss the links below my trip report! All three destinations I visited are available to skiers for no charge, but please visit the links to check hours and restrictions!

Old River Road, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (North Entrance)

The Friends staff met at our office in Patten at 10 a.m. to carpool the roughly 25 miles to the North Entrance.  My colleague Ruger and I had departed our homes in southern Maine when the sky was still dark, so it was nice to ride with someone else for the final stretch especially since Route 159 is really dirty and has a few frost heaves (read, bring your higher clearance vehicle and be vigilant). In the summer this entrance provides access to paddling, hiking, camping and biking along the Old River Road. The road is gated in winter, providing a perfect spot for a groomed ski and snowshoe trail.

Five people snowshoeing and skiing in the woods.
Easy gliding in the snowshoe tracks.


Four people seated at a picnic table in the snow.
Everything tastes better outside…

The National Park Service crew grooms soon after each new snow event all the way to Big Spring Hut, which is nearly 10 miles one way. We leisurely trekked along level terrain to the Oxbow Picnic Area, a fine spot to enjoy lunch and be back by mid-afternoon. The sole skier in our party, as the rest of the group stepped into snowshoes, I clicked into a pair of touring “off-trail” skin skis. Slightly wider than a traditional classic cross-country ski, they were the perfect choice for gliding through a few inches of fresh powder atop a firm machine-groomed base. In fact, I felt fairly guilty zipping along comfortably while my colleagues grew warm from the relatively steeper effort of picking their feet up to move forward!

A map of ski trails.
Find the link to this map and more below.



In a nutshell: Old-fashioned ski touring on a wide trail, perfect for group social skis. Don’t expect pristine corduroy or set track, but DO expect a blissful absence of the sounds of civilization. We had fun spotting many different animal tracks and trying to identify them.


Katahdin Area Trails at ktaadn resorts (New Enland outdoor center)
A close up woman's face in a snowy landscape.

The next morning I had a scheduled meeting at Ktaadn Resorts to begin plannig summer events. I was so excited to check these trails out that I set out early in the single digits Fahrenheit! Having run throughout the multi-use system in the warmer months, I knew it was a fun network with a lot of “topographical interest,” and sure enough, I was not feeling cold after fifteen minutes. I started at the trailhead across from River Driver’s Restaurant, where plenty of snowmobilers were taking off for a different set of trails. This day I started with skate skis and was a little concerned at the start–the trail was hard-packed and pocked with footprints. I considered turning back for my touring skis and switching to “recreational” mode but after a few turns into the woods, the trail smoothed out, post-holes disappeared, and the skating

skis on snow
Packed powder and bright sunshine.

conditions were fast and fun. I had about an hour and a half, which was enough time to ski the Lakeside Trail, part of Katahdin View, and  Twin Pines loops. Like any network with lots of trails and intersections, a person can get turned around. I am really good at getting turned around, but the quantity of trail markers, blazes, and most importantly, “you are here” numbered signs meant that I never got too far off my intended route. I can’t wait to go back and explore the rest of the network when I have a whole day to get lost! I squeezed in a delicious breakfast sandwich at the Knife’s Edge Brewing Co before zipping back down the hill for our meeting, then joined my colleagues back at KE for the wood-fired pizza afterwards. Tough day, I know…

A large rack full of colorful skis.
You can rent equipment for the day at Ktaadn Resorts.

In a nutshell: Well-designed multi-use trail network provides fun, technical terrain. There was no set classic track, so if you like to skate, enjoy! Classic skiers may choose a wider, or possibly even a light backcountry touring ski with metal edges, especially on very hard packed or icy snow. Watch out for: amazing views of Katahdin! If you have limited time, pass on the Lakeside Trail–it doesn’t actually get you to the lakeside, which was mildly disappointing.

Penobscot River Trails, Grindstone
A groomed cross-country ski trail.
Lovely conditions for classic or skate skiing.
An interior room at a ski lodge.
Warm up before and after your ski at the visitor center.
A ski waxing table.
Self-service BYO Wax station.

Oh, Penobscot River Trails! A true gem in the Katahdin Region, it lives up to the descriptors listed on the website: “world class facility,” “Olympic quality ski trails,” and “pristine riverside wilderness.” Popular with day-trippers from the Banor metro area, PRT is a must-check-out destination for all Maine cross-country skiers. I build it into all my winter work trips! On this day, fueled by belly full of pizza, I departed Ktaadn Resorts and drove to Medway, then the 10-ish miles north to the trailhead on Route 11. It’s hard to explain how lovely the visitor center is, with its heated bathrooms, self-service free equipment rentals, Swix waxing bench for guest use, and even a refrigerator and microwave! On the weekends and at other times by chance, I’ve been greeted by a friendly staff person who tends the woodstove and offers assistance. On weekdays, however, it’s usually just you and the guest log, which is fun to read through. Who knew so many folks were visiting the region from far away? On this day, the couple who set out after me were from Brooklyn, NY.

A groomed nordic ski trail.
Enjoy flying along the Tote Road on crisp corduroy.

I again chose skate skis, because I’m familiar with the “Olympic quality ski trails.” The first 1-2 km from the visitor center were actually pretty rough, even showing dirt in places and universally covered with little cones and needles. The trail at the beginning is also quite narrow with two sets of classic tracks, so I was glad to emerge from the wooded section and into the open where you can scoot across a very small field to access the Tote Road. PRT has very specific use guidelines. The Tote Road is groomed wide for skating and all skiers are welcome. Snowshoers must stay to the far edge. Most of the Riverside Trail is double tracked for classic skiing only. This was a little sad for me, as the Riverside Trail is much more beautiful and has more rolling terrain, but joy filled my heart as I channeled my inner Jessie Diggins. When I used to teach youth cross-country skiing, when a kid would “get” skating for the first time they often wouldn’t want to stop. They ski away with a goofy grin and pretend they can’t hear you yelling to come back because their mom is waiting in the parking lot. That is how it feels to skate along the Tote Road. You’ll feel like you’re flying along the ridiculously simple trail network marked with rustic wooden signs and rewarded with stops at warming huts that are probably nicer than your house.

In a nutshell: Just do it! PRT updates conditions very regularly so you will know what to expect. Be aware that the parking lot can be very busy on the weekends.


If you’ve made it this far in my post, you must be a cross-country skier! I’d love to hear from you–where and how do you ski in

A woman on skis in front of a river
A day on skis is always a good day! (At the Oxbow, Katahdin Woods and Waters NM)

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and around the region? And are changing winters affecting the places and the way you ski? Send me an email, and I hope to see you on the trails.

-Sarah Andre, Development Coordinator