I met up with my friends Adele and Sheara in Boston last month for our 14th annual cross country ski weekend. After an overnight in Massachusetts, we headed to Cape Elizabeth, Maine, near Portland, a new destination for us.
While my cross country skiing jaunts have never been solo trips, keep reading solo travelers. Everywhere we skied, we saw solo skiers. Mostly female. Several accompanied by dogs. But clearly the ski areas are popular and safe spots for solo skiers.
For the first time, we did not rent a condo. We checked into the Inn by the Sea, getting a two-level suite with huge windows. And a fantastic view of the Atlantic. The sun sparkled on the water and we could spot boats anchored offshore.
The Inn by the Sea would be a great place for solo travelers. The staff is friendly and available, and they're enthusiastic about giving restaurant recommendations and directions to good places to ski. When you return from your adventures, they ask: how was dinner, how was the skiing, anything we can help you with? You will not feel lonely. (You might, however, feel under surveillance.)
Best of all, the skiing on the beach was right out the back door. Astounding!
In all the years we've skied, we've always had to pile into a car to get to the cross county ski center or field or trails. Here? Tromp down from the room in cross country ski boots, pass through the lobby and push open the back door. Voila. There begins the skiing. Thirty feet away.
The first day offered quite the adventure. There had been several good snows in the previous week and the trail to the beach had not been shoveled, let alone groomed for skiing.
There were some footsteps. But when Sheara tried walking downhill in the snow, carrying her skis, she sank in up to the top of her thigh. And she's taller than I am! I had visions of sinking to my waist. Not doing it...
But I figured if I put my skis on, I wouldn't sink, due to the dispersion of the weight across the skis, and the formula I remembered from physics that I used to calculate weight versus mass plus moisture and density of the snow. (Yeah, right.) Actually, it just made sense.
It worked, for the most part. The snow caved every so often, but I didn't drop as deeply as I would have on foot. Or feet. Sheara and Adele followed. We headed to the ocean, blazing our trail.
The bright, sharp sun reflected off the pristine, white snow. As we got closer to the sea, we crossed over a snowy hill that is a sand dune in summer. Sea grasses poked out in places.
High tide had carved out a curvy edge to the field of snow. Just shy of where sand met snow, we turned to the right and started gliding along the ocean. A glorious first. The sight of ski tracks and the sound of breaking waves.
We watched waves come toward us, run out of steam, then slink back to the ocean. I wondered where the little sand crabs go in the winter. Are they still there and I'm just not seeing them? Are they deeper in the sand?
We skied for about an hour, into a state park at one point, away from the sea. Then we turned back, greeting other skiers, petting romping dogs, snapping photos as the sun turned the scene golden.
Now, cross-country skiing can be an iffy proposition. The snow has to fall and the weather has to cooperate for the snow to stay, skiable.
A trip such as this might require some last-minute planning and an eye on the weather. But if the weather doesn't cooperate, there are other things to do. The Inn by the Sea has a luxurious spa downstairs. Portland has some cute retails streets for window shopping. Dean''s Sweets has handmade chocolate truffles ready and waiting. Restaurants offer great seafood.
Or you can just walk along the beach. In the winter. When it's nice and quiet.
Photos: Ellen Perlman, Cape Elizabeth, Maine.