This story was originally published in October 2020.
For people new to Maine, winter can seem almost mythical: impossibly short days that feel devoid of sunlight, massive piles of snow and temperatures so cold they are prefaced with a negative.
While winter in Maine is no joke, your first winter in the Pine Tree State doesn’t have to break you as long as you are prepared.
Here are a few steps you can take to ready yourself for your first Maine winter.
Prepare for snow
First, make sure you know who clears the snow in your area. In terms of roads, municipalities usually handle removal, but if you are in a more remote area — or on a private road — you might need to remove it yourself or hire someone to do so.
You will not be able to go anywhere unless you have a way to clear snow from your driveway. If you are living in a rental, your landlord may take care of it. But, depending on your agreement, it might be up to you. Likewise, if you’ve purchased a house, you’re on snow removal duty. Hiring a plow to remove snow from your driveway is one option.
If all else fails, you can buy a snow plow to get the job done. Here is what you need to consider if you are purchasing a snow plow for yourself.
If you only have a small space to clear and feel up to the physical challenge, you can also take the analog approach and get a snow shovel to clear your driveway. Plastic shovels will be lighter and easier to handle, but metal is more durable.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a snowblower will make quick work of the pesky snow for relatively small jobs, though they can be tricky to handle properly. Read about this Mainer’s experiences figuring out how best to use a snowblower to see for yourself.
Snow can also do a number on your house. Make sure you know how to address snow loads on your roof. Your car also requires special care when winter comes. Here is how to prepare your car for harsh weather.
Weather like ice storms can also cause power outages. Here are some tips for surviving a winter power outage in Maine. If you lose power, here is how you can feed yourself.
And, yes, you can eat snow, provided that you follow some safety rules. Here is how to make traditional snow treats, like snow ice cream and maple syrup snow candy. Here are other ways to enjoy Maine during a snowstorm.
Prepare for cold
The cold is also challenging, especially if you are not accustomed to frigid temperatures. Make sure you know how the heat works in your home. Here is how to reduce your heating bill during the winter in Maine.
You may want an additional heat source, like a wood-burning stove or a pellet stove. Here is a primer about the basics of firewood to get you started, as well as a how-to about choosing firewood for a wood burning stove — and how to prevent bugs from hitching a ride on those logs. Once you have had a fire, here is how to dispose of the ashes.
To survive the cold, you also have to dress the part. Here are some tips for dressing warmly for the chilly winter outdoors, as well as what Mainers can learn from wildlife about dressing for the cold. Pets can be sensitive to winter cold as well. Here’s how to protect your pets during the winter.
Prepare your mind
Whether you have a history of mental health issues or not, Maine’s dark winter can take a toll on your emotional well-being. Follow this guide on how to combat winter depression in Maine to help you get through it. One way is to get extra vitamin D, which you can do through supplements or through natural sources.
One thing that can help with mental health is to make sure you get outdoors and enjoy some winter activities. This will help you get some vitamin D from the sun as well as physical activity. Here are the tools that you and your family need to enjoy winter activities outdoors.
There are a number of different winter sports you can try, from cross country skiing to dogsledding. Here are Maine state parks that are great for winter activities. Consider taking a snowy walk on one of these Maine trails, cycling through the snow on a fat tire bike or snowshoeing at one of these locations great for beginners.
Ice skating on frozen ponds — provided that you follow proper safety protocol — is another fun way to get outside in the winter. For a more laid-back day on the ice, you can try your hand at ice fishing. Here’s how to get started ice fishing, and how to catch more fish through the ice once you get the hang of it.
Luckily, community activities don’t stop in Maine in the winter. This is how you can best take advantage of winter farmers markets for fresh, nutritious products. Outdoor festivals and events also take place throughout the state despite the winter weather, such as the U.S. National Toboggan Championships, which are open to all to enter.
If you are getting out in the winter — even if it’s just to walk around town — you may need ice cleats to prevent you from slipping and sliding every which way. Here is the lowdown on how to choose and use ice cleats.
Perhaps the most important element to making it through a Maine winter is the will to do so, and the willingness to adapt along the way. If you have that, you’ll be fine.