9 Best Maine Ski Resorts for Beginners – Plan The Perfect Ski Trip

by Simon Knott | Updated On: August 31st, 2022
skiing in Maine

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Whether you’re a Maine local or visiting, there are plenty of ski resorts to choose from.  While they may not have the glitz and glamour of some of the larger West Coast resorts, they are well designed to offer beginners good, safe skiing, and lessons for first-timers.

Our top pick is Sunday River. It’s a quality resort but not extortionate. The skiing for beginners is progressive and interesting and the accommodation is slopeside.

Top Picks

    9. Black Mountain – Rumford

    Black Mountain
    Photo by Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

    As a non-profit organization, Black Mountain serves the local River Valley and surrounding communities in Western Maine. Thanks to I-95 there are good communications between the cities of Portland, Augusta, and Bangor for weekenders as well as vacationers.

    What’s the Skiing Like?

    Beginners need to head towards the Base Lodge and then pass the lower end of the Summit lift to find the Beginner area. Here you’ll find the Novice lift, which carries two skiers, so you be able to practice getting on and off chair lifts without the pressure of other people around.

    Five green runs in the beginner area all interconnect, some trail through the trees, and others are more wide-open. Once you’ve found your confidence in this small area you can retrace your steps past the Summit lift to try out the T-bar.

    If you find yourself struggling, there will always be someone to help you at the bottom and at the top of the lifts. From the top of the T-bar lift, you can choose between a blue run on either side to bring you back down to the Lodge. Black Mountain has more than 70% snowmaking, so coverage should never be an issue.

    If you want to stop for lunch there is a pub and a cafe, which serve cold & hot sandwiches, pizza, chili, and vegetarian options.

    If the kids have been bugging you about the Edge Tubing Park, you will find it just in front of the Base Lodge, on the left. It’s a great way to work off some excess energy and have a great laugh at the same time.

    If you’ve never tried cross-country or Nordic skiing, Black Mountain is well set up to introduce you to more than 17km of trails through wonderful countryside and forests.

    If you’re first timers, it doesn’t take long to get to grips with the basics, where you can enjoy a good aerobic workout while enjoying the scenery. If you want to add snowshoeing to your abilities, then Black Mountain is the place to try because it’s free.

    Learning to Ski

    There are several courses for kids to get their skiing adventure underway, which are based on age. There is the Kinder Club for ages 5-6 and Snow Kids for ages 7-14, which are both group lessons.

    For adults, there is the Learn to Ski & Ride package, which takes place on Saturdays and Sundays at different times, and includes a lift ticket, rentals, and a 2-hour lesson.

    With 70% snowmaking, Black Mountain can stay open during the entire season. There is also night skiing available for those who want to keep the fun going as the sun sets. With 20 trails, there’s a great mix of terrain, where beginners and families can thoroughly explore the mountain.

    Off the Slopes

    There is no slope-side lodging at Black Mountain however, the ski area has partnered with numerous local hotels, inns, and lodges which will offer you a warm welcome. Airbnb is also worth checking for reasonable rentals in the area.

    What We Love About Black Mountain — Rumford:

    • Beginners are well catered for with a dedicated area
    • 70% snowmaking makes up any shortfall
    • Professional ski and snowboard lessons
    • Tubing Park which is a popular hit with the kids

    Black Mountain — Rumford Stats

    Summit Elevation:1380 ft / 420 metres
    Skiable terrain: 50 acres
    Lifts:3
    Runs:46

    8. Big Squaw

    Ski Resort 1

    Squaw Mountain opened for skiing in December 1963. It has undergone some big swings in its fortunes over the years, but it now has a new lease of life, as a popular non-profit ski area with a classic New England feel.

    What’s the Skiing Like?

    The ski area now has 6 beginner trails, 18 intermediate, and 3 black diamond for the more experienced.

    Beginners have the choice of trying out the small beginner area located just to the right of the Base Lodge. However, if you’re feeling more confident you can take the main triple chair lift to the top of the hill and turn right onto a choice of two green runs, which trail their way back down through the forest to the base.

    As you ski down and gain in confidence you can gradually turn off these green runs and start to try out some of the easier blue runs. There is enough choice to make this progression gradual, so you can maintain your confidence.

    When you’re searching for more of a challenge you can turn left as you exit the chairlift and choose the blue run, Upper Allegesh, which splits several times on the way down between wide-open runs and tree-lined glades.

    There are some good opportunities for cross-country skiing at Big Squaw, where you’ll find more than 6 miles of groomed trails. It’s a particularly scenic area of Maine, not far from the Appellation Mountain Wilderness and the shores of Moosehead Lake. If cross-country skiing is not your thing you can always still enjoy the scenery by snowshoes instead.

    If you want something to eat on the mountain you can do a lot worse than head over to the cafe where they serve American Ski Mountain Grub with a flair! You’ll have worked up an appetite so take your pick from wings, burgers, chicken fingers, soups, killer salads, Mac n Cheese, Steak and Cheese, kid-friendly options, and many more.

    Learning to Ski

    Big Squaw offers both a Learn to Ski and Learn to Snowboard package for complete beginners which includes, lift-ticket, equipment rental, and a 1-hour beginner lesson.

    There are additional group and private lessons which can be added on if you need further tuition.

    Off the Slopes

    If you’re in need of a tune-up on your equipment, head on over to the Volkl RTM Rentals shop and they’ll be able to sort out any problems you have. Lodging at Big Squaw is more limited than in other Maine ski areas, however, there are quite a few lodges and holiday homes available for private rent.

    What We Love About Big Squaw:

    • Beautiful rural views with plenty of wildlife to spot
    • Operated by a non-profit, which keeps vacation costs down
    • Cross country skiing available on groomed trails
    • A varied mix of terrain with plenty to keep beginners busy
    See also  9 Best Washington Ski Resorts for Families

    Big Squaw Stats

    Summit Elevation:3200 ft / 975 metres
    Skiable terrain: n/a
    Lifts:1
    Runs:33

    7. Lonesome Pine Trails – Fort Kent

    Ski Resort 7

    Lonesome Pine Trails is close to the town of Fort Kent, which sits on the US and Canadian border of New Brunswick. Historically, Fort Kent is known as the site of the confluence of the Fish River and the Saint John River.

    Their lodge and slopes are all within walking distance to downtown Fort Kent, where guests can find a great array of dining and lodging amenities.

    What’s the Skiing Like?

    There is a great mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails, so kids can work their way up year after year as they gain confidence and the skill set to do so.

    Lonesome Pine Trails does have snowmaking on the following runs Founders, Garbonstingle, Maine, and Reservoir. There is a decent amount of natural snowfall each season and snowmaking will definitely help, however, it’s recommended that skiers check the forecast ahead of time before setting out.

    As beginners, when you first had out of the mountain orientate with the Lodge and you’ll find the Bunny slope just in front. Skiers and snowboarders will enjoy getting to grips with the gentle slope of the Bunny Trail, where there is a handle tow.

    When you feel ready to graduate, the T-bar tow will take you to the top of the mountain, where you can pick up the easy Founders Trail, which comes down the left-hand side of the ski area. As you become more confident you can pick up more challenging runs such as the Valley and Maine Trails.

    Lonesome Pine Trails is a particularly good beginner ski area to start on. It won’t be that attractive to expert skiers, who are much more likely to go elsewhere. This is good news for beginners, who want as few other people around as possible.

    Learning to Ski

    Lonesome Pine Trails has a team of qualified instructors to offer both group and private lessons. The team are used to dealing with complete beginners and work alongside the Adaptive Ski Program, helping physically challenged individuals to ski.

    Full ski rentals are also available for skiers and snowboarders, as well as those who want to try snowshoeing.

    Off the Slopes

    Once families are properly worn out from skiing, they can head over to Fort Kent to get a bite to eat and something to drink.

    Accommodation can become stretched around Lonesome Pine Trails, so it’s best to book well ahead and take advantage of some of the rural lodges, cabins, and holiday homes in the area.

    What We Love About Lonesome Pine Trails — Fort Kent:

    • A smaller ski area, which is less intimidating for beginners
    • A great mix of ski events throughout the season
    • Fully stocked ski rental shop
    • Ski waxing and sharpening services are available

    Lonesome Pine Trails — Fort Kent Stats

    Summit Elevation:2300 ft / 701 metres
    Skiable terrain: n/a
    Lifts:2
    Runs:81

    6. Titcomb Mountain

    Ski Resort 6

    Titcomb Mountain might be on the small side but it’s perfectly formed. The ski area is mostly run by volunteers with Summer Camp activities during the warmer months and all sorts of snow mayhem during winter. You’ve got a pretty sure bet that if the staff are volunteers, you’ll be getting a warm reception and attentive service during your stay.

    Prices across the board are more affordable, while nippers aged 5 and under and wrinklies aged 70 and over ski for free. Throw in free parking as well and you can see why Titcomb has so much going for it.

    What’s the Skiing like?

    Titcomb Mountain has two lifts which are on either side of the Lodge. Beginners need to take the right-hand lift and turn right at the top to access the green runs on the right-hand side. As you leave the lift you will come across a warming hut, which if it’s a biting day you might want to shelter inside briefly.

    The upper two green runs are called Upper Bunny and Beagle, which continue lower down as Lower Bunny and Young’s Way.

    When you’re negotiating the green run, Beagle, you’ll pass the terrain park, which has a half pipe. It’s always interesting to watch other people in terrain parks even if you have no plans to participate yourself.

    As you want to progress to more difficult runs you can either take the same right-hand lift but turn left at the top instead or take the left-hand lift and turn right at the top to pick up the selection of blues runs in the middle.

    Titcomb Mountain has snowmaking as well as night-time skiing, so the skiing day is extended.The trails are all professionally groomed, and the volunteers ensure that things are kept running smoothly for guests.

    Learning to Ski

    Titcomb has an open and simple policy when it comes to skiing tuition. Private lessons for children and adults are available when the mountain is open, based on instructor availability. The pricing at $40 per hour is quite a bargain, especially when that price includes the lift ticket for the remainder of the day.

    Off the Slopes

    Families can check out the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat after a long day on the mountain. As a ski area, Titcomb Mountain doesn’t have any slope-side accommodation, but you can choose from a selection of hotels, motels, and cabins, which are dotted around the villages nearby.

    What We Love About Titcomb Mountain:

    • Affordable prices and a friendly team of volunteers
    • Ideal for beginner and intermediate skiers — not so much for experts
    • Private lessons avaiare lable for children and adults at great prices
    • Nordic trails are some of the best available in the vicinity

    Titcomb Mountain Stats

    Summit Elevation:750 ft / 229 metres
    Skiable terrain: 45 acres
    Lifts:3
    Runs:16

    5. Mt. Jefferson

    Ski Resort 4

    Mt. Jefferson is located in the small village of Lee in a particularly rural part of Maine. Luckily, I-95 is close at hand giving good connections to Bangor, Waterville, and Augusta to the south.

    While Mt. Jefferson doesn’t have some of the amenities of the other parks, such as a terrain park, it does offer locals a great area for some good old-fashioned skiing at a great price.

    What’s the Skiing Like?

    Mt. Jefferson usually opens from mid-December to late March, but this is naturally dependent on snowfall. The limited size of the ski area is advantageous to beginners for a couple of reasons.

    Firstly, if you’re in a group or family it’s easier to keep tabs on each other so you’re not continually getting lost. Secondly, more advanced skiers and snowboarders will overlook Mt Jefferson for more challenging resorts, so there will be less traffic on the runs.

    See also  11 Absolute Best Vermont Ski Resorts for Beginners With Friends & Family

    If you’re just starting out on your skiing journey you could easily spend three or four days, slowly building up your confidence on the easier slopes.

    There’s a lot to be said for going down the same run again and again. It might be repetitive but it’s one of the best ways of building confidence because you can see your progress each time you go down. When learning skiing or snowboarding you must put in the time, there are sadly no shortcuts.

    There are two T-bar lifts at Mt Jefferson and when you reach the top beginners should turn right and head to the two green runs, Cedar Lane, and Willow Way, which are gentle glades back down to the bottom.

    When you feel you’ve got these first two greens under your belt, you can turn left at the top of the T-bar instead and find another green run, Maple Trail. There are several blue runs that are easy to progress onto as your confidence builds.

    Learning to Ski

    At Mt Jefferson, the longest run is just over one mile long and over 20% of the trails are well-suited for beginners, so there are plenty of easier, gentle runs, where you can practice your balance and turns without too many distractions.

    Off the Slopes

    With its good Interstate connections, many visitors to Mt Jefferson just come for the day or the weekend before heading back home. Many people enjoy the lack of development and describe Mount Jefferson as nestled in the beautiful New England countryside, close to the quaint village of Lee, Maine

    If you do decide to stay for a few days it’s well worth booking well in advance as the lodging options are limited.

    What We Love About Mt. Jefferson:

    • Less crowded and less intimidating to beginners
    • Most trails are suitable for beginner and intermediate level skiers
    • Close proximity to Bangor
    • The lack of commercial development is refreshing

    Mt. Jefferson Stats

    Summit Elevation:753 ft / 230 metres
    Skiable terrain: 12 acres
    Lifts:3
    Runs:12

    4. Saddleback

    Saddleback Maine
    Photo by Jack Flanagan licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Saddleback Maine is often highly rated with its combination of big-mountain terrain, village charm, and friendly welcome. Located in the Sandy River Plantation, near Rangeley, it’s tucked onto the slopes of Saddleback Mountain, the largest independent ski area in the East.

    The stats speak for themselves with the lifts topping out above 4000 ft, 68 runs, and more than 225 in snowfall each season.

    What’s the Skiing Like?

    Beginners are well catered for at Saddleback Maine, with a dedicated square area South Branch, just in front of the Lodge, which contains more than 10 shorter green runs to provide plenty of variety when learning.

    There is a moving carpet and Sandy Rope tow to move you within the beginner area, or you can take the South Branch Quad to the higher edges. Moving on to slightly more demanding runs is straightforward too. Take the South Branch Quad and then swap over onto the Rangeley Hi-Speed Quad straight up to the summit.

    From the top turn right onto Hudson Highway, which skirts around through the trees, where you can turn left into Morning Glory and back to the beginner area. With practice, you can start to try out some of the easier blue runs from the top of the Rangeley Hi-Speed Quad.

    Learning to Ski

    The South Branch area at Saddleback has four miles of gentle sloping beginner terrain that does not mix with advanced trails, so you can practice your turns safe in the knowledge that everyone else will be going at the same pace as you.

    The Roger Page Ski and Ride School, is a PSIA/AASI Member School, headed by a team who are committed to sharing their skiing knowledge and having fun at the same time.

    There are standard classes such as Learn to Ski and Ride Lessons for ages 15+, which last for 90 minutes and include ski rentals and a lower mountain lift ticket. The instructors aim for a 4:1 student-to-instructor ratio to ensure personal tuition.

    There are additional clinics for specialist tuition such as skiing through glades or negotiating steeper terrain.

    Off the Slopes

    Both Saddleback Mountain and the Rangeley Lakes Region offer a wide variety of lodging both slope-side and away from the resort. These include historic hotels, traditional bed & breakfasts, lakeside cabins, contemporary condos, and romantic hideaways.

    Make an accommodation booking through the resort website, and you will also be entitled to discounted lift tickets at the resort.

    What We Love About Saddleback Maine:

    • It’s a less commercial resort than many
    • There’s enough beginner terrain to satisfy most.
    • Faster skiers have no reason to access beginner terrain
    • It’s a beautiful area with mountain, valley, and lake views.

    Saddleback Maine Stats

    Summit Elevation:840 ft / 256 metres
    Skiable terrain: 130 acres
    Lifts:2
    Runs:18

    3. Hermon Mountain

    Mount Hermon

    Hermon Mountain is a well-established ski area in northeast Maine, close to the town of Bangor and on I-95, with its north-south connections. It’s got a strong reputation as a friendly resort, where the staff is eager to help out and see you have a good time. Locals from Bangor use it as their local hill where they appreciate the affordable rates.

    At 70 acres the area is considerably smaller than some of its counterparts in Maine but if you’re looking for simpler slopes and a good welcome you can do far worse than Hermon Mountain.

    What’s the Skiing like?

    The ski area at Hermon Mountain is nearly circular with the lifts starting just to the left of the Lodge. Both lifts travel virtually the same distance to the top, where if you turn right into Upper Cloud Nine, Lakeview, and Scenic you will go straight back down to the base again.

    Alternatively, for a long run, you can turn right and keep high until you pick up Slow Poke, which trails down around the edge of the ski area between the trees.

    The tubing park at Hermon Mountain is always popular and comes with a lift for easy access back up the hill. The hill is 600 ft long and a ticket lasts for three hours, so there’s plenty of time to create mayhem.

    Learning to Ski

    There are a variety of lessons for skiing and snowboarding at Hermon Mountain.

    If you’re not sure which to choose, there is an easy-to-understand qualification sheet on the Learn to Ski section of the website. The resort has full ski rentals and they welcome and ‘never ever’ beginners.

    See also  France vs Switzerland For Skiing, Which is Better? (Decide Where To Go)

    Off the Slopes

    Many families choose to go to Hermon Mountain on a day trip but there is nearby lodging for those who want to make it a weekend trip. The nearby towns of Rumford and Bangor have hotels and lodging, which can be very affordable for guests on a budget.

    See also 7 Best Utah Ski Resorts for Beginners

    What We Love About Hermon Mountain:

    • Night skiing is available on certain days — check ahead on their website
    • Easy beginner terrain without too many crowds
    • Tubing is available onsite with over 600 feet of space
    • Knowledgable and helpful staff to set up your equipment and show you the basics

    Hermon Mountain Stats

    Summit Elevation:450 ft / 137 metres
    Skiable terrain: 70 acres
    Lifts:3
    Runs:20

    2. Sugarloaf Resort

    skiresort3

    Sugarloaf Resort is in the heart of the Carrabassett Valley and offers its guests striking views of Maine’s Western Mountains. The drive-in alone will have guests in awe of the scenery.

    With over 4,000 ft of elevation, there is plenty of surrounding area to admire while you’re a guest at Sugarloaf, or “the Loaf” as the locals call it.

    What’s the Skiing Like?

    Some skiers say that the remote location of Sugarloaf is a big downside, however, there’s an alternative line of thinking that says the extra traveling time is well worth it. This is because you’ll experience minimal lift lines, a local flavor that you just can’t imitate, and friendly staff throughout the resort.

    Over 20% of the trails at Sugarloaf are classified as “beginner” so there’s plenty of areas to explore. Just in front of Base Lodge, you will find Lift G, which takes you a short distance to the top of the beginner area, where you can return on the green run, the Landing.

    When you need more of a challenge, wander over to Quad Chair A, which will take you halfway up the mountain from where you can turn right onto Rollway and Whiffletree, two long sweeping greens.

    There are more long green runs on the opposite side of the hill and it’s worth asking lift attendants or ski instructors which are the easiest blue runs to progress onto.

    Learning to Ski

    Sugarloaf offers the Mooseketeers program that is designed for 2.5 to 3-year-olds who want to be introduced to the slopes — the program includes a lift ticket and equipment.

    Sugarloaf has its own dedicated Learn to Ski and Snowboard Package. To start, you’ll get fitted with your ski gear followed by your 2-hour lesson, where you’ll discover the lower mountain at your own pace. The instructors use the proven Terrain Based Learning System which improves your confidence on the snow.

    Off the Slopes

    If you’re looking for slope-side accommodation the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel in the Sugarloaf Village has plenty of rustic, mountain charm. The Super Quad chair is only a hundred yards away and the Hotel Health Club comes with a sauna, steam room, and fitness area.

    There are other accommodation options in the resort such as cabins, lodges, and whole-home rentals.

    What We Love About Sugarloaf:

    • Variety of options apart from skiing — fat biking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing
    • Plenty of varied options for beginners
    • Multiple terrain parks so one doesn’t get overly crowded
    • Over 600 acres are covered by snowmaking capabilities

    Sugarloaf Stats

    Summit Elevation:4237 ft / 1291 metres
    Skiable terrain: 1240 acres
    Lifts:13
    Runs:162

    1. Sunday River

    maine sunday river
    Photo by Udi h Bauman licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Sunday River has a vast array of trails — totaling over 130, across the same face of eight peaks. The setting is rural on the edge of White Mountain National Forest and not far from the peaks of Mount Washington. The closest town to Sunday River is Newry, which has its population boosted considerably during the winter months.

    What’s the Skiing Like?

    Sunday River is great beginner terrain with 30% of runs designated as easy. There is an ample beginner area just in front of Barker and South Ridge lodges with several greens run to choose from.

    When it’s time to move on to some higher runs you can take 2 South Ridge Express, which will give you access to 4 longer green runs, Mixing Bowl, Ridgeway, Double Dipper, and Ridge Run.

    The terrain is well designed for beginners so it’s easy to progress gradually onto more challenging runs without a sudden jump in difficulty. In fact, all of the peaks except Locke Mountain and White Cap feature a route down via a green run, which creates plenty of choice throughout the resort. It’s a large area at 870 acres and with 15 lifts to move skiers around, queueing, and crowded runs shouldn’t be a problem.

    The resort is so confident in its snowmaking capability that they are happy to offer a snow guarantee, which is detailed on the website. If when you visit the resort, you are not happy with the snow conditions, you can return your ticket and receive a credit ticket for another day of your choice.

    Learning to Ski

    There is a comprehensive Beginner’s Guide on the Sunday River website, which covers many aspects of skiing including how to book, accommodation, equipment, clothing, and what to expect among many others.

    If it’s your first trip and you’re thinking of lessons the Sunday River Snow Sports School offers classes in skiing, snowboarding, and ski biking for both kids and adults.

    There are plenty of options between private and group lessons, so it’s often easiest to speak to someone at the Snow School, who can assess your abilities and group size for the best way forward.

    Off the Slopes

    Sunday River is known for being one of the better-quality resorts in Maine, but it still ensures that it keeps the ambiance of a smaller friendly area. There are two slope-side lodging options with the Grand Summit Hotel and the Jordan Hotel, while more independent accommodation is available in a range of condos and townhouses.

    What We Love About Sunday River:

    • Great snowmaking capabilities to ensure good snow coverage
    • One of the best resorts in Maine for beginners
    • A vast array of trails interconnected together
    • The nearby village of Bethel for dining options and other activities

    Sunday River Stats

    Summit Elevation:3140 ft / 957 metres
    Skiable terrain: 878 acres
    Lifts:18
    Runs:135

    Why Choose Maine for Skiing?

    When you ask most people what comes to mind when you mention Maine, the stock answers are lobsters, clam chowder, and lighthouses. Well, that takes care of the coastline, but the lesser-known feature of the State is the number of quality skiing resorts, 15 at the last count.

    Many of the mountains in Maine are higher and farther north than others in New England, which means better quality snow, which is drier, and less icy. Combine this all together with a warm New England welcome and you’ll have a vacation to remember.

    How Did We Order This List?

    To help rank our top selection of ski resorts for this list we compared the following ranking factors:

    👨‍👩‍👦 Ranking Factor📈 Power to affect Rank
    Amount of Beginner Trails (Mi) 4x
    Amount of Skiing Area (Mi) 3x
    Cost of two adult tickets + child ticket1x
    How many magic carpet lifts1x

    We gave each factor its own weighting depending on how important we feel it is for family fun across all ages. For example, a resort with more beginner trails is higher ranked than a resort with a lower-priced family ticket – with all else being equal. That’s because while cost is a factor, it’s not a primary one. We may also use our editorial judgment to remove or add resorts that we believe should make the list.

    When taking all of this into account, it gives us our awesome list above. We hope it was helpful in planning your next family ski vacation.

    View Map

    Best Ski Resorts for Beginners In Maine

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    NewToSki.com is where over 1 million people a year come to learn more about skiing. I founded this website so I could share everything that I wish someone had told me, when I started learning to ski in 2005. As seen in Yahoo, HowStuffWorks, MSN. Learn More

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