When you head to low-key, laid-back Kingfield, leave the Bogner ski wear at home. We love the unpretentious, rough-hewn charm of this northern Maine ski town, where snowmobiles share parking lots with four-wheel-drive pickup trucks, and locals are proud of their down-to-earth ethos. Tucked in a valley where the West Branch and Carrabassett rivers meet, and surrounded by mountain ranges, the town is a mecca for outdoor lovers. Sugarloaf, dubbed the largest ski area east of the Rockies, is the big draw. But there’s also access to more than 50 miles of hiking, snowshoeing, and back-country Nordic ski trails, and snowmobile trails in town connect to hundreds of miles of routes along Maine’s Interconnected Trail System. At the end of a hard-playing day, settle in at a historic 1918 hotel on Main Street, or join the locals at a come-as-you-are tavern for a pint of Carrabassett Ale.
The throwback Herbert Grand Hotel (246 Main St., 207-265-2000, www.herbertgrandhotel.com, $79-$95) is comfortable and value-packed, filled with original woodworking and antiques. Rooms are basic but white-glove clean, and the lobby lounge, with a fireplace, cushy sofas, and a popular weekend happy hour, is a great place to hang out. Friendly Mountain Village Farm B&B (164 Main St., 207-265-2030,www.mountain
villageinn.com, $89-$119) offers home-away-from-home accommodations in a picturesque setting, surrounded by fields and mountain ranges, with views of the Carrabassett River. Rooms are bright and airy with private baths, and come with a full, gourmet breakfast. A short walk to the lifts, comfy rooms with kitchenettes, buffet breakfasts, and friendly staff make the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel a good, mid-price, on-mountain lodging option. (5092 Access Road, 800-843-5623, www.sugarloaf.com, $99-$160 per person per night.) If you feel like splurging, there are also one- to three-bedroom suites and multilevel penthouses with private saunas and hot tubs.
One Stanley Ave (1 Stanley Ave., 207-265-5541, www.stanleyavenue.com, entrees $20.75-$35) is romantic and upscale, with its cozy, Victorian-style dining room and unique fare. Start with appetizers like the lamb sausage with cider mint sauce or the smoked Maine mussels before moving on to the Alluvial chicken with fiddleheads, juniper berries, and hemlock, beef and chestnut pie, sage-flavored rabbit, venison stroganoff, or dilled lobster. The Orange Cat Café (320 Main St., 207-265-2860, www.orangecat
cafe.com, breakfast $3.39-$7.24, lunch $7.99-$9.99), with its colorful, funky atmosphere, is a great place for breakfast or lunch. Breakfast sandwiches, some named after Kingfield locals, are freshly made, including our favorite ham, egg, pepper jack, and sriracha on a croissant. There’s also a decent selection of sandwiches — try the curry chicken salad — along with homemade daily soup and quiche specials. Longstanding Longfellow’s Restaurant (247 Main St., 207-265-4394, www.longfellowsme.com, $4.99-$15.99) is a casual, family-friendly restaurant with hefty portions and a something-for-everyone menu. Burgers are popular; try the Jack Daniel’s BBQ Bacon or the messy Longfellow burger with caramelized onions, fried egg, and melted cheese. Entrees run the gamut, from traditional pasta dishes to steaks and seafood. For the perfect carb-loading, après-ski meal, head to tiny and always bustling Hug’s (3001 Town Line Road, 207-237-2392, www.hugsitalian
.com, entrees $14-$24). It’s a warm and casual hangout where family-style salads are followed by traditional dishes like veal picatta, fettucine alfredo, and eggplant parmesan.
DURING THE DAY
Sugarloaf (5092 Access Road, Carrabassett Valley, 207-237-2222, www.sugarloaf.com, one-day lift tickets adults $83, ages 13-18 $69, ages 6-12 $58), one of the top alpine resorts in New England, is just up the road. The mountain has 154 trails and glades, 14 lifts, three terrain parks, and some of the steepest and best backcountry terrain in the East. Grab your cross-country skis or hiking boots and head to the southernmost trailhead on the Maine Huts and Trails system (496 Main St., 207-265-2400, www.mainehuts.org, winter hut rates start at $94 per person and include dinner, breakfast, and trail lunch) where you’ll have access to four off-the-grid, backcountry huts and more than 50 miles of trails. Self-guided day and multiday trips, as well as guided excursions are available. The flat, easy-to-do Narrow Gauge Pathway follows the Carrabassett River for six miles and is also a popular place to cross-country ski. History buffs may enjoy the tiny Stanley Museum (40 School St., 207-265-2729, www.stanleymuseum
.org, adults $4, under 12 $2) with four original Stanley Steamer cars, a small collection of antique engines, and early 1900s black-and-white photographs. If you have a little time to kill, check out the Ski Museum of Maine (256 Main St., 207-265-2023, www.skimuseumof
maine.org, free) showcasing the history of skiing in Maine and its boom as a ski-equipment manufacturing hub from 1930-1950. There are some fun artifacts, like old wooden skis, patches, and posters. Don’t leave town without a browse through Mainely Alpaca (Village South, Sugarloaf Ski Area, 207-462-7363, www
.mainelyalpaca.com). We bet you won’t be able to resist at least one soft, ultra-warm item made from fibers sheared from the owners’ own pack of alpacas, including sweaters, scarves, mittens, and blankets. The Reinholt Gallery (245 Main St., 207-266-8458, www.ianreinholt.com) features beautiful, handcrafted wood pieces and original artwork.
The lifts are closing, your legs are wobbly, and you just need a drink. No problem, head to the popular Widowmaker Lounge (Sugarloaf Base Lodge, 207-237-6848, www.sugarloaf.com) for the area’s best après-ski action. Select from some 16 brews on tap and share a massive nacho platter, and you’ll have your energy back in no time. Return later to listen to live music, offered on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the winter. Locals love The Rack (5016 Access Road, Carrabassett Valley, 207-237-2211, www.therackbbq
.com), owned by former Olympic snowboarder Seth Wescott. It’s a great place to down a brew, chat with friends, and listen to local bands. The barbecued ribs and pizza aren’t bad, either.