No matter the year, Mainers make the most of it when the temperature drops and the snow flies. If we didn’t, we might go mad with cabin fever, staying cooped up inside. 

Remember what it was like before Netflix, the internet and cable TV? Going out to sled or build snow creatures or really any other winter activity was a really big deal.

Regardless of all the digital distractions available at our fingertips, fun in the snow is still a major pastime for Mainers, whether it’s hoping you’ll get a nibble while ice fishing, or gliding around a pond — natural or manmade — on ice skates. 

We pulled together photos from the BDN archives from the 1950s onward, showing what winter recreation looks like throughout the decades in Maine. We’ve got a lot of snow on the ground right now, so ‘tis the season to get outdoors.

Back in the 1950s, building snowmen, sledding and skating were daily activities for kids of all ages in Bangor. In that era, people even still used horse-drawn sleighs regularly — something that’s all but disappeared outside of historic installations like the Curran Homestead in Orrington, or Leonard’s Mills in Bradley.

From left to right on the slide; James Robinson, Mary Lou Robinson and Susan Stefanski slide down a structure constructed in Broadway Park in 1956. Credit: Danny Maher / BDN Archives
Mary Houlihan (from left), Billy Houlihan and Sue Lobley prepare for sled rides in December 1954. Credit: Paul Marcoux / BDN Archives
Deborah Lynn Burke, 2, is shown as she became worried about her snowman as he began to melt in the surprisingly warm temperatures, which followed a freezing rain, sleet and snow storm in 1956. Credit: Danny Maher / BDN Archives
Linda King, Donna Bridges, Marlene Center and Nancy Thompson get on the ice with their new skates in 1958. Credit: Spike Webb / BDN Archives

By the 1970s, hairstyles had changed, but outdoor fun hadn’t. Ice fishing and snowmobiling have always been major parts of winter culture in Maine. And though snowmobiles are a lot faster and more technologically advanced these days, the basic idea remains the same — zoom through the snow and have a whole lot of fun while doing it.

Bangor Parks and Recreation has flooded parts of city parks each year to provide safe, in-town skating, though there’s no substitute for finding a secluded pond to skate on in nature.

A group of teens enjoys some skating along the Penjajawoc Stream near Mount Hope Avenue in this 1970 BDN photo, though not all of them were able to stay upright. Credit: BDN Archives

Clockwise, from bottom left: William Weatherbee of Brewer gets ready to drill a hole for some ice fishing at Hermon Pond in this January 1970 photo; Youth members of the First Congregational Church in Brewer link arms as they go skating in Brewer in this January 1970 photo; A woman skates with her baby at the outdoor skating rink on the University of Maine campus in Orono, in this January 1970 photo; It’s unclear how happy this toddler is about ice fishing with his family at Lead Mountain in Beddington in Washington County in February 1970. Credit: BDN Archives

Candidates for the Brewer High 1970 Winter Carnival king and queen contest gathered for a group photo. Front row, left to right: Margo Ham, Dennis Macomber, Joan Pooler, Gregory Lunn. Back row, left to right: Donald McLaughlin, Connie Murphy, Dan Dawe, Michele Pierce. Credit: Carroll Hall / BDN Archives

If there’s a snow day called from school, you can bet that your neighborhood kids will be clamoring to get outside and rocket down the closest hill. Hayford Park in Bangor has always been a popular local spot to go sledding, though the truly brave — foolhardy, perhaps — might try the hill at Essex Woods.

Clockwise, from left: Dawn Ortonward and her son Doogie, 6, play ice hockey on their homemade ice rink in front of their house in Brewer in January 2002. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN; Lori Soohey hands her father, Babe Bellefleur, a ribbon for the 12-foot-tall snowman at their Bangor home. Neighbor Brenna Humphrey, 7, and Soohey’s daughter, Abbe (right), 9, helped with the snowman, which took two hours to build in January 2001. Credit: Caleb Raynor / BDN; Enjoying a snowy day with her sons, Cassandra Dickinson of Hampden pulls 4-year-old Everett up the Union Street hill on his sled while Elias, 5, carries his behind them on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN.

Dylon Brown, 7, of Bangor gives his sister Dakota, 4, a tow over a snowdrift at Hayford Park in Bangor in 2000. Credit: Bob DeLong / BDN

What are your favorite memories of winter fun in Maine? Leave a comment or fill out the form below.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.