When our friends, John and Diane Stokinger, invited my wife, Nancy, and me to join them for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing at Quarry Road Trails in Waterville, I was skeptical. Although vaguely aware of the existence of ski trails in that central Maine community, I didn’t know anything about them. The Stokingers’ knowledge was also limited as it would be their first visit too.
I look for two principal features when choosing a Nordic ski trail system: high-quality grooming and the opportunity to experience extended longer distance treks as opposed to shorter circuitous routes. Since enjoying outdoor adventures with our friends is more important than trail considerations, we deferred to their judgment regarding the Quarry Road Trails.
The trails are located at the end of Quarry Road on the northern outskirts of the city. Following Quarry Road under I-95, Nancy and I soon observed what appeared to be well-groomed trails on the left. Glimpses of more groomed trails were discerned as we proceeded farther along. Shortly after, a downhill ski slope was passed on the right where grooming was in progress. By the time we arrived at the Outdoor Center — where there is spacious parking surrounded on three sides by Nordic ski trails — we were optimistic. Soon after, our friends joined us.
Quarry Road Trails is an impressive winter outdoor complex that offers downhill skiing, snowshoeing, fat tire biking and Nordic skiing. Passes are purchased at a hut where ski rentals and some loaner snowshoes are available.
Nancy decided to snowshoe while I opted to join Diane and John for Nordic skiing. Classic skiers, we initially negotiated the easy Charlie’s Inner Loop, Davis and Far Meadow Loop Trails, where the grooming was superb. By accident, we stumbled onto the “more difficult” Hawthorn Trail that travels along the Messalonskee River. The wide, painstakingly groomed route facilitated effective snowplows on the downhills and efficient herringboning on the climbs.
Success on Hawthorne prompted a decision to test our skills on the extended “more difficult” River Loop. The approximately 3-kilometer one-way trek was an exhilarating continuum of demanding climbs and exciting twisting descents, the second half was adjacent to the river.
On return, we stopped at the hut for a break. Nancy soon joined us and reported invigorating snowshoeing. The genial attendant related that the trail system is regularly used for competitive ski racing and other group activities. He also disclosed that the ski area makes snow for the Nordic trails closest to the hut and limited skiing had been available since late November. That revelation just about blew my socks off. I’d spent hours in December and January futilely attempting to locate quality Nordic skiing and all the while it was conveniently accessible in nearby Waterville.
The four of us had different agendas for the afternoon. I decided to explore the distant North Koons and Wally’s Way Loop Trails. About a 5-kilometer outing including connector trails, both are rated “more difficult.”
After skiing Charlie’s Inner Loop, Meadowlark Trail and Far Meadow Loop, I connected left onto North Koons. While River Loop and the trails closest to the hut had been busy, I found myself alone in a delightful wilderness setting on rolling North Koons. The grooming continued to be exceptional on the one-way network. Although there was some downhill, I generally skied gradually uphill for the first half of North Koons before joining and repeating the same on the initial segment of Wally’s Way. Much of the remainder of the ski on the east sides of the two loops was steadily downhill and very entertaining. I met two skiers just before completing the thoroughly enjoyable double loop who echoed my favorable observations about the trails.
Everyone in our group was impressed with their Quarry Road Trails experience. I’ll definitely return. Assuming the trails are well-groomed, which seems likely, I plan to ski the “most difficult” Upper Colby Sprint and South Koons Trails during my next visit. And, when no one else has snow, I’ll call to see if Quarry Road is making their own.
My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine,” includes three chapters that relate exciting Nordic ski escapades in Maine. Had I been aware of Quarry Road Trails when I wrote the book, it would have been the fourth.