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Riverside Golf Course Cross-Country Skiing and Sledding

My daughter commented that I’ve been hiring babysitters a lot lately. She’s right. I’ve hired teenagers to come to the house for a few hours each day so that I can get out and enjoy the perfect snow while it lasts. The kids have been out of school for a llllooonnnggg time… a lengthier than normal winter vacation followed by two snow (and bitterly cold) days last week. I’m very ready for them to go back to school tomorrow and to their routine. The skiing has absolutely helped me retain my sanity while I wait for that school bell to ring.

During one of our first winters in Portland a neighbor told us to check out sledding at the Riverside Golf Course (1158 Riverside Street, Portland, ME 04103). She alerted me to the fact that it was also a great place to go x-country skiing. It took me awhile to get there for a ski–my kids were little and my daughter refused to put on winter boots for the first few years of her life. Those were challenging days to get outside during the winter.

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I’ve gone to Riverside to ski today and yesterday. Both days, the parking lot was full of cars, so I know this isn’t an unheard of place, but I’m sure there are Portland area folks who still haven’t gotten there. For those who haven’t yet been, let me give you a little report.

I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to skiing and quite frankly I often find skiing on golf courses a tad boring. I like being in the woods with snowy branches overhead. I grew up in NH with Pawtuckaway Lake State Park in my backyard. Yesterday I was looking for a change of pace and thought I’d revisit Riverside because I had limited time and wanted to get some inexpensive outdoor exercise.

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I went alone and was pleased with the recently groomed trails. I appreciate having two inline tracks right next to each other, a place for skate skiing, and that there is room for the snow shoers to walk along side the ski tracks.  The double inline tracks is great for passing (or being passed) as well as when traffic is going in opposite directions.  I knew my husband would like to be able to ski right next to me, so we could have a conversation while skiing. When I went alone, I was able to get off the groomed trails and get onto human made trails closer to the river’s edge and under more trees.  It was lovely.  Off in the distance I could see the sledding hill. It was packed. I haven’t taken the kids there yet but there is still time on this gorgeous winter day.

This morning Hans (my husband) and I went on an early morning date. It’s a windless balmy 24 degrees. After a week of negative temperatures and crazy low wind chills ranging from -20 to -30 degrees today feels like a summer day.He’s the music director for an upcoming play called Words By that will play at Portland Stage and has been in rehearsals each day since Dec. 30th and had to be to the theater at 11:30. We haven’t had a date for months so this morning we left the kids with a babysitter, picked up coffee at Black Cat Coffee along with a heavenly maple Holy Donut, and drove the 13 minute route to the golf course. Hans did not grow up skiing and only goes once or twice a year–he doesn’t love it like I do and is still learning. We could have walked to and skied in the woods behind Evergreen Cemetery but I thought he’d rather ski on groomed trails than to struggle with the tight twists and turns on the ungroomed trails in the woods. I was right. He enjoyed himself so much that I think we may just go more regularly this year.

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The skating skiing looked amazing and there were many people doing it. The sledding hill looked long and super fun. And somewhere there is a skate rink, but I wasn’t looking for it and didn’t find it. Keep in mind that there are two parking lots.

To wrap this post up, I’d say that overall I’d prefer take the time to go to Pineland (which is certainly more expensive but also has ski rentals, longer groomed trails through the woods, and a lovely shop for post-ski hot cocoa and treats) but when time or money is tight, skiing locally is a great way to get outside. Also, keep in mind that Riverside doesn’t groom every day, but you can check out the ski conditions at the website (below) before going.  FYI, they had groomed on Sat. and  and the conditions seemed about the same on Sunday despite not grooming a second time this weekend.

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Riverside does ask for a tiny donation in a drop box to cover grooming. But, the box has been stolen. I personally will keep track of how many times we ski there and send a check at the end of the season. $2.00 per person per ski is a very inexpensive outdoor activity and I’m very grateful to have them keeping the trails open and available for all ski abilities.

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For conditions visit www.riversidegolfcourseme.com.  If you have anything to add to this post, please do so in the comments so others can benefit.  Time to get back outside!