Three, two, one, and you’re off – screaming down the side of a ski slope and straight toward the sea during the U.S. National Toboggan Championships. Surrounding you are competitors in costume, from Chiquita bananas to penguins and polar bears. It’s a bit chilly here at the Camden Snow Bowl, but no matter.
Welcome to Maine, in the months before the masses arrive. From February through April, Penobscot Bay sparkles with a winter wonderland that melts into a spring of new beginnings: lobster boats receiving a fresh coat of paint and museums curating contemporary exhibits. While the National Toboggan Championships occupy only one weekend, every day offers a different way to play on a unique bay.
Activities & Attractions
Hone Your Artistic Ability
Every Sunday, the Art Loft in downtown Rockland offers Figure and Portrait drawing sessions for the aspiring artists among the locals and visitors of Penobscot Bay. It’s a great way to summon your inner van Gogh and a popular offering that is a perfect way to get in from the cold and warm yourself in the light of artistic inspiration.
Discover the Motion of the Ocean
From December through April, harp and hooded seals appear along the 2,600-mile coast of Maine, with pupping season happening in February. So now is an ideal chance to spot the slick creatures right around the corner from the Samoset at the historic Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. For a prime viewing spot, hike nearly a mile out to the bay to the end of the pier, built with more than 700,000 tons of granite. This time of year, only a few ferryboats go to and from nearby Vinalhaven and North Haven Islands, making it a quiet time to contemplate the Atlantic action.
See the Sea from Skis
Coastal Maine gets about 50 to 70 inches of the white stuff each year, and has plenty of places to take advantage of it. First, the Camden Snow Bowl is the only ski resort on the East Coast with views of the Atlantic Ocean. Ski or ride 20 runs serviced by a 4,000-foot triple lift, with snowmaking on more than 80 percent of the terrain. Plus, a ski lesson just might teach more than the sport, as several instructors double as schooner captains in the summer. The Samoset, meanwhile, offers snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on its golf course; rentals are at Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport.
Embark on a Food Journey
This is an especially fine time of year to visit Rockland restaurant, In Good Company: Every Thursday, from the end of January to the middle of May, the loft-like space features a special Cinematic Food Journeys dinner series. For 2020, owner and chef Melody Wolfertz is exploring global cuisine while paying homage to some of the movies that have inspired her over the years, including Julie & Julia and the animated favorite Ratatouille. Be sure to re-watch the film before enjoying the culinary experience.
Savor Scallop Season
The Maine Department of Marine Resources allows divers and draggers to forage for scallops only from December to April, and this year, with some areas shut down early to protect the harvest, Penobscot remains one of the bays whose bounty is fair game. Not ready to dive into 35-degree waters? Splurge on a stew of coastal shellfish – featuring day-boat scallops, in addition to mussels, clams, Maine Lobster, shrimp, and haddock – at Samoset’s Italian-inspired restaurant, La Bella Vita.
Festivals & Events
For eight days every February, Camden cooks up this downtown feast of frigid fun, which includes a community-wide ice-carving contest at the amphitheater, a fund-raising polar plunge into the harbor, the U.S. National Toboggan Championships and CamJam Freestyle Ski & Snowboard Competition at the Snow Bowl, and more. Samoset’s master chef, Tim Pierce, is also a master ice sculptor, and leads clinics in the art of turning a 300-pound block of ice into anything from an egg to a swan.
Bay Chamber Concerts, 2/12, 2/19, 3/11 & 4/24
The Maine hills are alive year-round with the sound of music as this family-friendly Rockport-based nonprofit presents a diverse display of talents, including a Piano Battle where two pianists go head-to-head on stage to compete for the popular vote of the audience.
Imagination Station, 2/17–21
Only in winter can you attend this special series – hosted by the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum – an educational experience to fill your little one’s winter vacation with hands-on activities and learning.
Maine Restaurant Week, 3/1–12
Camden’s 40 Paper Bistro and Sea Dog Brewing Company are two of the dozens of restaurants participating in this palatable celebration of culinary talents, which features specially priced three-course meals.
27th Annual Business and Community Expo, 4/1
The Samoset Resort hosts this free showcase of local businesses, where residents can network with other participants, while visitors receive a glimpse of what it’s like to live in the Penobscot Bay area.
Where to Stay Samoset Resort