By VICTOR BLOCK
Palm trees and Florida’s white sand beaches can’t be beat, but if warmer temperatures put a damper on your holiday spirit, consider a visit to Rangeley Maine, a tiny, snow-covered village where Santa can slide down a chimney and not break a sweat.
Rangeley (pronounced range-lee) is a town of about 1,100 year-round residents perched in the mountains of western Maine and surrounded by dense forests, sparkling lakes and
Tradition reigns here. Each December, celebrants gather in the center of town to watch the lighting of the Giving Tree, which is the focus of a gift donation project for children and adults in need. In the annual Walk to Bethlehem, Biblical characters and others pause at churches and sing carols. The event ends at the Church of the Good Shepherd where
everyone goes inside to enjoy a holiday pageant.
Rangeley and its neighboring communities attract vacationers year round with a full menu of inviting options. They include world-class
fishing for salmon and trout in spring;
boating, kayaking, hiking and golf throughout summer; and some of the best leaf-peeping to be found anywhere during the fall.
This time of year, the four-season
resort area morphs into a picturesque
winter wonderland. Frozen lakes and
ponds are transformed into nature made
rinks for ice skating and curling.
There’s skiing 30 miles away at
Sugarloaf Mountain, Maine’s second
Those who wish to experience snowmobiling or cross-country skiing have a choice of 150 miles of well groomed trails, which interconnect with other systems that lead throughout
Maine and into Canada. The snow covered trees and quiet surroundings of forests welcome folks in snowshoes, often looking for opportunities to spot an occasional moose.
To escape winter’s chill, seek out roaring fireplaces in restaurants which range from pizza to posh, or curl up with a book next to log blazes that burn in the lobby of
19th century Rangeley Inn.
The Inn is but one inviting
place among many
which relate intriguing chapters of the town’s history.
Before the first Europeans arrived, Abnaki Indians set up hunting and fishing camps
along shorelines of the area’s lakes and ponds. The names of some lakes – the Cupsuptic, Umbagog, and tongue-twisting Mooselookmeguntic – attest to the Native American influence.
In 1796, an Englishman named James Rangeley purchased land on which a town soon evolved.
In the mid-19th century, the village which bore his name gained a reputation as a fishing mecca because of its abundance of brook trout and landlocked salmon. Well-to-do fishermen from Boston, New York and further away made the trek to the still primitive destination, and over time grand hotels like the Rangeley Inn sprang up to offer them
Today the Inn shares space along Main Street, a several-block-long stretch of road without a stop sign or traffic light, with frame buildings that house the Lakeside Theater, the
Alpine Shop, the aptly-named Moose Alley bowling lanes, and a smattering of small stores
and restaurants. Much of the vehicle traffic consists of logging trucks creaking along with heavy loads.
It doesn’t take long for those who drop by to understand that this area of Maine is as much a lifestyle as a destination, one that fits comfortably into the time-honored tradition of small-town friendliness . That’s among the reasons why generation after generation
of families come back repeatedly, and why some of them purchase vacation homes — “camps” in the local vernacular – so they may enjoy all that Rangeley has to offer,
especially during the holidays.
IF YOU GO:
For information about
Rangeley, Maine call the
Chamber of Commerce
at 800-685-2537 or
check out the website at