Ski season has begun, and one of Maine’s largest ski areas has a new owner. It’s time to get out the skinny skis and head out on the state’s many cross-country trails. Camden Winterfest is around the corner, for those who love all things winter, while Maine Huts & Trails has some big news. For more urban pleasures, Portland’s oyster bar scene is booming, and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art has a cutting-edge exhibit through the winter. For writers, editors and bloggers looking for short-lead news, there are immediate details under Happening Now. Those in search of longer lead news can scroll down to the Looking Ahead section.

Happening Now

Saddleback Mountain Has a New Owner

Four years after it closed, Maine’s third-largest ski area, Saddleback Mountain ski resort, finally has a new owner. The mountain is expected to reopen in 2020 under the ownership of Arctaris Impact Fund, a Boston investment company. Maine’s eighth-highest mountain has an elevation of 4,120 feet and offers 2,000 feet of vertical skiing, along with some of the most challenging expert terrain in the Northeast. Arctaris is expected to invest in a new high-speed quad chair, new T-bar, updating of the base lodge and new snowmaking equipment. The opening is tentatively scheduled for early December 2020.

Maine Huts & Trails Will Remain Open this Winter

Maine Huts & Trails Stratton Hut
Maine Huts & Trails Stratton Hut

Maine Huts & Trails has four Alpine-inspired mountain huts in northern Maine that are ideal for hikers and cross-country skiers, with leather furniture, woodstoves, and walls of windows in the common rooms, along with hot showers, toilets, heated bunkrooms and gear-drying rooms. But these superb off-the-grid eco lodges set on an 80-mile trail system have experienced serious financial difficulties this past year. The good news is that a six-week grassroots fundraising campaign resulted in more than 730 individuals making contributions. The organization has achieved its short-term goal to open the trails and huts in a self-service mode this winter. There is, however, more work and more fundraising to be done. Go to Maine Huts & Trails for more details.

Temporality\ The Process of Time at the CMCA

The Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) in Rockland is exhibiting Temporality | The Process of Time in the Maine Gallery through February 23, 2020. Exploring ideas of repetition, duration and process, Temporality looks at how contemporary artists are using time as a means of making. Grace DeGennaro, Carly Glovinski, Danica Phelps, Kate Russo and Deborah Wing-Sproul are the artists whose work is on view. In a society that’s constantly on the move, the artists included in the exhibition are asking the viewer to slow down and consider the relevance of time, resulting in work that uses time as a material, including painting, photography, sculpture, installation, video and others.

Portland’s Great Oyster Bars

Maine's oyster bars
Enjoying oysters at one of Portland’s oyster bars

Oyster farming has made a strong comeback along the Maine coast and Portland, the state’s buzziest food town, serves up some of the best oysters to be found anywhere. The most famous spot is Eventide Oyster Co., which has a signature granite trough filled with oysters and shellfish, and is helmed by James Beard Award winners Mike Wiley and Andrew Taylor, along with Arlin Smith. The Shop by Island Creek Oysters  has buck-and-a-half bivalves, including Mookie Blues from Damariscotta and Wolfe’s Neck from Scarborough. Scales is another great choice to knock off half a dozen oysters, as is J’s Oyster. For a taste of old-time Portland, head to DiMillo’s on the Water.

Looking Ahead

Camden Winterfest 2020

Riding the lift at the Camden Snow Bowl
Riding the lift at the Camden Snow Bowl

Camden will host its annual Winterfest from January 31 – February 9, 2020. The multi-day festivities will include snow sculptures and ice carving contests, as well as the U.S. National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl. A polar plunge and freestyle skiing competitions are also part of the event, not to mention a snow-plow parade, a concert and dance, and a Maine Mardi Gras theme. Visit the Camden Winterfest.

Where to Cross-Country Ski in January

Cross-country skiing at Mt. Blue State Park
Cross-country skiing at Mt. Blue State Park

By January, Maine is reliably snow covered and its many cross-country trails have been groomed into pristine condition. Five Fields Farm in Bridgton, which lies in the foothills of the White Mountains, is just an hour from Portland. In the far north of the state in Presque Isle, the Nordic Heritage Center has 20 km of trails and a warming lodge. At Sugarloaf, some skiers trade their alpine skis for a day of Nordic skiing at The Outdoor Center, the largest Nordic center in Maine, with 90 km of groomed trail loops. In Bethel, not far from Sunday River, both Carter’s X-C Ski Center and Bethel Village Trails offer miles of groomed trails for skiers of all abilities. Go to Visit Maine for more details.