It’s been years since we’ve passed the New Year in the Bangor area without a speck of snow on the ground, but here we are — roads, slopes and fields clear of any white stuff or ice, and lovers of winter activities left high and dry.
But just because we’re not expected to get any major amount of snow anytime in the next two weeks doesn’t mean there’s nothing winter-centric to do this time of year. Here are five options to enjoy the cold weather, with or without any snow.
Go to the beach
It probably sounds insane, going to the beach in January. But with the lack of snow and ice and daytime temperatures hanging around in the 30s for at least the next 10 days, it’s actually a great time to visit one of Maine’s countless rocky beaches, all up and down the coast. Not only will very few — if any — people be there, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to observe winter visitors to Maine’s coast, including various migratory birds not generally seen in the warmer months. Waves also tend to be higher and more spectacular in the winter, so be prepared to take some beautiful photos. And while you’d be advised to dress appropriately, beaches are much easier to navigate without a bunch of ice to slip on.
Visit a sauna
Scandinavians and Finns, like Mainers, know the value of doing things to keep your spirits up during the cold, dark winter months. One of the most iconic parts of their culture are saunas, where you sit and sweat in the steam until you can’t take it anymore — and then either plunge into a body of water or an ice-cold bath or shower. It’s truly invigorating.
In Maine, there are a number of places that offer both traditional saunas and contemporary “infrared” saunas. Cedar Grove Sauna in Montville offers sauna sessions for solo and group as well as community sauna events, while Raven’s Crossing in Appleton has nightly sauna sessions (and massage therapy). Closer to Bangor, Float 207 in Hermon offers both infrared saunas and sensory deprivation float tanks.
Go ice skating safely
It is categorically unsafe to go skating, snowmobiling or ice fishing on any of Maine’s lakes or ponds right now, because temperatures have not yet been reliably freezing and the ice is still not thick enough to support the weight of people or vehicles. It’s incredibly dangerous, so don’t do it!
Those mild winter temperatures have meant that it’s been tough for towns to open their outdoor skating rinks, which generally open only for the coldest winter months, and which usually involve organizers flooding open areas in parks and other town land to offer up safe, free ice skating for the community. While most towns have yet to open their rinks, the slightly lower temperatures expected later this week and into the weekend may mean it’ll finally be time for towns like Orono, Eddington, Bangor and Belfast to start offering ice skating. Check with your local parks and recreation departments or community organizers about opening dates, so you can skate safely.
Heated outdoor and ‘igloo’ dining
One of the things the pandemic taught us was that outdoor dining doesn’t need to be limited to the summer. Several Maine restaurants and breweries have kept outdoor dining going year-round, ranging from heated and covered outdoor seating at places like Mason’s Brewing Co. in Brewer and Maine Beer Co. in Freeport, to the full-on private “igloo“ experience at Timber in Bangor, Kanu in Old Town and Pineland Farms in Gray. It’s a great option to stay safe from COVID and other viruses, and it’s also a fun way to switch up your winter social calendar.
Have a bonfire
It’s nice to stand outside by a roaring fire with snow all around you, to be sure, but imagine how much easier it is to haul wood and tend the fire without any snow or ice to trip you up? Whether you’re sitting on your deck by your little Solo Stove, or you’re building a big ol’ blaze out of your Christmas tree and all the branches that fell in that wild pre-Christmas storm, it’ll at least give the feeling of winter, with or without snow. Make sure if you’re building a fire any bigger than can be contained in a small fire pit that you check with your municipality about getting a burn permit.