It feels like a rare treat to swish-swish along on cross-country skis after the sun goes down, taking advantage of the evening quiet when not many people do. I suppose that’s what makes it quiet.
We don’t even need well-lit trails to do it. There’s nothing stopping us from donning our headlamps and skiing out into the snow after dark. (Well, some trail systems do close at dusk, and we need to respect that. But otherwise, there’s nothing stopping us.)
Even still, skiing under the lights at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington feels like a well-earned winter treat. It’s a chance to glide on groomed terrain spotlighted by bright overhead lights, making the trail look like a long expanse of a rolling stage that extends on into the wilderness.
And then there’s you, skate-skiing with gusto or cruising along in the tracks, lured along by the lights and the way the snow glitters on the ground and how your shadow skis along with you.
It’s a delight.
Titcomb Mountain is a family-friendly place to ski, downhill or cross-country. The mountain might be small compared to its bigger cousins in Bethel and Carrabassett Valley, but with lift tickets ranging from $10-$30 and a kid-friendly atmosphere, it’s a very cool community ski area.
The no-frills lodge has two rooms of tables (BYO lunch or buy a burger/grilled cheese/chowder/pizza from the snack counter) and a fireplace to warm you up.
The 16 kilometers of cross-country trails are pretty spectacular, too. The trails are groomed for skate and classic skiing and they weave and loop all the way around the mountain, darting through trees and fields, crisscrossing one another in a wonderful Nordic network. They’re well-marked, too, with trails suited for beginners and experts and everyone in between.
Day passes for cross-country skiing cost $10 and are purchased in the lodge, and there’s also a rental shed if you need to rent equipment (when the shed is open during the day).
But the best part, at least for those of us who like to Nordic at night: 2.3 kilometers of Titcomb’s cross-country trails have lights. While that might just be a fraction of the overall terrain, it’s still plenty of space to ski around for a bit, enjoying the nighttime solitude.
The lit area includes beginner and intermediate trails, along with a few splendid hills that will get your heart pumping on the way up and are fun to whiz down.
Now, a quick note about the lights. My first time at Titcomb at night with my cross-country skis in tow, I was perplexed to see nothing but darkness. The lodge had already closed for the day, so there was no one with whom to inquire: Where are the lights?
Turns out, there’s a button (the lights don’t stay on all night). It’s on a kiosk right near the parking lot trailhead, it’s green, and pressing it turns the lights on for 90 minutes. If you press it again during those 90 minutes, it resets for another 90 minutes. To let you know the lights are about to run out, they’ll flash to give you a 10-minute warning.
Often a staff person will turn them on for you, but it’s good to know where the button is if you need it. Trail passes also have to be purchased at the lodge while it’s open (until 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday), so keep that in mind when you decide to ski.
It’s not guaranteed you’ll have the trails to yourself at night, but the probability is high. Either way, you’ll enjoy a treat of skiing with lights leading the way.
Freelance writer Shannon Bryan lives in South Portland and is the founder of fitmaine.com, where she writes about the coolest ways to be active and get outdoors in Maine.