Chills and thrills

By NINA MACLAUGHLIN  |  March 1, 2006

Maine attractions
Moving farther north (and a tad east), we go from tunes and grub in Burlington to peaks and slopes in Bethel, Maine. Bethel is home to Sunday River, which, like Killington, is one of the premier skiing spots in the northeast. A hundred and twenty-eight trails plunge and thread across eight peaks. Eighteen lifts cruise people upwards to a mix of varied slopes and extreme vertical drops, including 17 double-black-diamond trails, like White Heat, one of the longest and steepest in New England. Lift tickets are $59 per day, $110 for a two-day pass, and you can save by booking online (www.sundayriver.com).

The après spot of choice is the Foggy Goggle (South Ridge Lodge, 207.824.5100 x4356). The White Cap Lodge hosts the Bud Light Concert series, with appearances by Medeski, Martin & Wood, Entrain, Blessed Union of Souls, and the annual Parrot Head Weekend in early April. There’s action on the slopes, too, including the Suzuki halfpipe jam (March 11), the annual Firefighters Race and Eat the Heat Chili Cook-Off (March 19), and the Bud Light Rail Jam (April 2).

For a morsel of authentic New England charm and history, travel to the mid-coast-Maine town of Rockland, the entry point to Penobscot Bay. Its industrial history involves shipbuilding, lime-processing, granite quarrying, and, needless to say, fishing and lobstering. In the coastal vein, learn about life-saving lighthouses at the Maine Lighthouse Museum (1 Park Drive, 207.594.3301), where admission is free on Saturdays in February and March. Or head to the Farnsworth Museum and Wyeth Center (16 Museum Street, 207.596.6457) for an intimate look at a nationally recognized collection of American art. The Wyeth Center focuses on the exhibition of work by the Wyeth family --  N.C., Andrew, and James. Andrew Wyeth’s rich, somber, Novemberish drawings, paintings, and portraits seize the beauty and severity of the Maine coast. And in neighboring Rockport, you’ve got the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (162 Russell Avenue, 207.236.2875), which showcases work by Maine artists.

North of the border
If you’re already up as far as Rockland, you might as well drive a few hours further, and cross the border to our expansive northern neighbor, Canada. Eighteen-year-olds head up for porn and booze. Angry lefties flee the current administration. But Canada’s good for a weekend, too. Montreal is a little more than a five-hour drive (and a lovely one, too) from Boston -- only slightly longer than a road trip to New York. The city offers a taste of Europe without leaving North America. It’s less crowded in the winter than it is in the summer. And it’s almost impossible to hate the bands the city pumps out.

Vacations don’t have to wait for summer. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t get away.

___

On the Web:

Portsmouth, New Hampshire: http://www.portsmouthnh.com
Outdoor New Hampshire: http://www.nhoutdoors.com
Killington: http://www.killington.com
Magic Hat's Mardi Gras: http://www.magichat.net/mardigras2006
Sunday River: http://www.sundayriver.com/

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