Although Maine has an abundance of ski resorts, the state only boasts a handful of ski towns. Most ski areas are perfect for day trips, however, the state’s three mountain towns, provide lots of activities in any season.
Each of these locations has plenty of Nordic skiing in addition to downhill. All three ski towns are in the western part of the state in the same general vicinity and are not far from multiple ski areas.
Here are the top ski towns in Maine to live and visit, in no particular order:
Carrabassett Valley, ME
While Carrabassett Valley is primarily a rural community, the town includes the village surrounding Sugarloaf Mountain Resort and all the interesting activities that come with it. Sugarloaf Village has shops, restaurants, coffee houses, and ski shops, plus plenty of food trucks at the busiest times of the year. Visitors quickly notice the community feeling within this small ski town.
Carrabassett Valley once housed a health resort known for the local medicinal spring. The town’s permanent residents grew slowly, with the addition of the railroad, a steam mill, and a lumber mill. Timber and logging were big industries around the area, particularly as a source of pulpwood. Through the decades, it remained a small town with a population of 673 in the 2020 census.
The mountain resort is its own community, with a grocery store, library, and the Anti-Gravity Complex for recreation. There, people can enjoy an inline skiing loop, climbing wall, trampolines, and an indoor skatepark.
Once the snow melts, many of the Sugarloaf shops and restaurants close, yet the mountain is still open for biking and visitors can spend time on the local golf course. It’s also not far from the Maine Ski and Snowboard Museum.
Bethel lies exactly between two ski areas, Sunday River and Mt. Abram Ski Area & Bike Park, making this ski town an ideal place to enjoy everything outdoors. Visitors and locals can spend their downtime on the slopes, enjoying the many cross-country ski trails, or exploring the quaint and historic village.
The town is situated in the subrange of the White Mountains, part of the Appalachians. In the summer it’s easy to find canoeing, kayaking, golf, fishing, and biking. Winter experiences extend beyond skiing to dogsledding, fat tire biking, snowmobiling, and sleigh rides.
Bethel was once the site of a Native American village. The area grew rapidly after the Revolutionary War when the land was cleared, and a trade road was established through the future town. The railroad arrived in 1851, opening even more trade opportunities.
Today, Bethel’s walkable downtown area is filled with shops from local craftsmen, artists, and entrepreneurs. Restaurants range from low-key to fine dining, with live music playing at many locations throughout the year. More lodging can be found in Bethel than at either ski area.
The population hovered around 2,500 as of 2020, but the community offers more than expected for its size. Bethel has its own schools and hospitals, and in the winter offers free bus service to Sunday River. The Maine Mineral & Gem Museum is located downtown, and there is always a different event happening somewhere in the area.
With its proximity to the state’s biggest independent ski area, Saddleback Mountain, Rangeley could easily be pigeonholed as a ski town. But in truth, the area is so much more than that.
The town wraps around Lake Rangeley, and its long history as a popular visitor destination all comes back to the surrounding lakes and incredible views. Fishermen from cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Boston came to Rangeley in the late 1800s to enjoy the area’s abundance of streams, ponds, and lakes. The plethora of wildlife can still be appreciated in the area today.
Rangeley began as a small farming community in the early 19th century, and within a few decades, the town became known for logging. It was a busy town through World War II, and now is a popular choice for second homes.
In the summer, water activities dominate the outdoor options, although the Outdoor Heritage Museum and Maine Forestry Museum are unique ways to spend an afternoon. Winter activities also often center around water, whether it’s for ice fishing on the lake, or curling and ice skating on a pond. Snowshoeing, fat tire biking, and snowmobiling keep visitors and locals alike entertained with the area’s abundance of snow.
There are numerous shops and restaurants, plus a bowling alley and theater for performances and movies. Lodging options range from bed and breakfasts to private home rentals, and from hotels to condos. Despite the number of things to do and places to stay, Rangeley has a laid-back vibe. The population was only 1,222 at the 2020 census, contributing to the region’s low-key atmosphere.
While many of Maine’s ski areas are only active in the winter months, three alpine towns offer so much more during any time of the year. These Western Maine communities have a lot of choices for visitors and locals to find the right one that fits their lifestyle, whether on vacation or looking to move in and settle down.
Visit these ski towns to see another side of “The Pine Tree State”, different from the rocky shores and high mountains. They are all perfect locations to experience all that Maine has to offer.