By Emily Bennett, Staff Writer

Natalia Asis on a Mainely Outdoors snowshoeing trip to Flagstaff Lake hut (Photo Courtesy of Mainely Outdoors Facebook Page)

Natalia Asis on a Mainely Outdoors snowshoeing trip to Flagstaff Lake hut (Photo Courtesy of Mainely Outdoors Facebook Page)

The Mainely Outdoors program at UMF have scheduled a variety of winter events to be held throughout the season for students regardless of skill or experience to expose undergraduates to activities around the area.

Colleen Ward is a recent Mainely Outdoors advocate and event leader at UMF. “It’s a great program to meet new people and get outside, it’s the heart of outdoor recreation being in Western Maine,” Ward said. “It gets students off campus to de-stress. A lot of students don’t get this opportunity”.

The winter trips available, including downhill skiing, nordic skiing and snowshoeing, are what sparked her interest in the program. Holly Legere, a trip leader for Mainely Outdoors, said, “Every Wednesday night we now have UMF ski nights at Titcomb, we are going to have a van that we are hoping to run like a shuttle service, offering informal instruction for people learning to ski.”

James Toner, the director of the Farmington Recreation Center, thinks the program can connect to many other aspects UMF has going on. “It provides students with opportunities to gain experience in leadership,” said Toner. “It could be for people who want to get the ski certificate in the new program, Alpine Operations Certificate.” The program has most of their trips planned for the rest of the semester. “I have trips planned to Acadia National Park, the anti-gravity center in Carrabassett Valley, a canoe and kayak race in May, and also a Maple Syrup Sunday event,” said Toner. The program also offers a high ropes course every other Tuesday night with a certified instructor.

When the program started in 2009, L.L.Bean gifted a grant of three thousand dollars for equipment, and since then the program has absorbed much of the costs through the Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC). “Recently there was some funding to support the program through UMF from the brand-new health fee that was added on, and some of that money is put towards this,” said Toner.

Legere started at Mainely Outdoors as a participant and this fall she started working for the program.“Participating in it made me want to lead the events and plan the trips I want do as well,” she said. Legere still remembers a spectacular frozen waterfall she saw on one of her first few snowshoeing trips through Maine Huts and Trails. “It was a pretty stress free and fun experience,” she said. “It’s just so beautiful.”

Ward has many fond memories of activities with the program, one favorite being a game in the FRC pool. “Battleship,” she said affirmatively. “When I planned battleship it was really fun. We had an amazing turnout and the amount of fun the participants had confirmed that I wanted to plan activities for a living.” The Battleship event will take place again this spring.

Ward has seen the benefits of participating in this program by landing herself a internship at Sunday River.“The experience leading trips and planning events has helped me get the internship and hopefully future jobs,” she said. “Good contacts at Mainely Outdoors led to even more good contacts at Sunday River.” Many students participate in this program for their own benefit of gaining experience in outdoor leadership. “I can do something I love and something I would normally do on weekends, and get paid for it,” said Ward. “I think the biggest thing has been its just a great opportunity to not have to worry about driving to get somewhere, you can just enjoy being with your friends and the natural Maine beauty.” The activities are of no cost, with the exception of a few occasional trips that cost a minimal amount.

Upcoming most recently is a UMF Ski Night for Alpine and Nordic skiers at Titcomb Mountain on February 25th at 4pm. “Like” UMF FRC Outdoor Recreation – Mainely Outdoors on Facebook or check out their website at http://www2.umf.maine.edu/frc/outdoor-recreation.