Have you ever spent an entire winter in the mountains?
If you’re from an inner city or even a suburban town or busy neighborhood, then you know how peaceful and serene it can be to visit any small-town community nestled deep in the mountains, and take a breath from busy, daily life.
For us entrepreneurs, knowledge workers, and creative thinkers, living in the mountains can do wonders for mental health, creativity, and overall state of mind.
I spent the winter of 2020-2021 in the state of Maine, and here is what I learned…
As most of you know, I was born and raised in Massachusetts. I spent 35 years living, schooling, and working in a small-ish town about an hour or so west from Boston, 15 minutes south of Worcester, and a stone’s-throw away from Providence, Rhode Island.
In July 2020, I began the real estate journey for the second time in my life for two reasons—primarily to purchase commercial property to grow and expand my business. For years, I felt a calling to go to New Hampshire. And after the pandemic and yet another failed relationship, I felt it was time.
In September 2020, I found a “mixed use” property in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire, which would have been both a place for me to live, work, and earn rental income. I found tenants to rent out of my house in Massachusetts, so I left my home town and moved to Maine where my parents built their retirement home.
Living with my parents in Maine was only meant to be for a few weeks while I waited for the closing date on a new house in Manchester. However, after reviewing the results of several inspections, I decided that house would have been a very, VERY poor investment, so I decided to walk away from the sale.
This now meant that I would be living in Maine for an undetermined amount of time—and possibly through the winter.
If any of you reading this (and thank you, if you are!) have been to Maine, or have even visited the Northeast at any point during the winter to ski, snowboard, snowmobile, or enjoy any other snow sport, then you likely know that our winters are long, extremely cold, and snowy.
For someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), you are likely reading this and thinking, why would you move to where it’s colder? Now, I’m the most unlikely person to ever walk the face of the Earth to admit that she is actually enjoying winter somewhere in the world. It was very difficult for me, don’t get me wrong. However, I had to take a step back, think positively, and try to make the best of the situation, until I can figure out a long-term plan and good investment.
During this unexpected and somewhat awkward journey of being a 35-year-old “adult child” living with my parents, I realized that there was something about winter in Maine—far from the city, suburbia, and the day-to-day—that was vastly different… and better.
So, even though I’m suffering with trying to figure out my life, I’m also greatly intrigued with figuring out the how and why winter in the deep woods and mountains of Maine is prettier and even more enjoyable, and oddly where it’s snowier and colder longer.
5 Likely Reasons Why Winter is Better in the Mountains
Yes, I’m willing to admit that these reasons could be attributed to the simple fact that living in the same place with the same people for 35 years just took its toll on me, and now the literal “change of scenery” was all I needed to combat winter depression.
But I believe it’s more than that. It’s… scientific.
Determined to figure it out, I started doing some research and applying the trusty Scientific Method:
- Observe your situation—separate the facts from your emotions.
- Come up with some 3-5 ideas or solutions.
- Research or test your ideas or solutions.
- Draw conclusions.
Here are my hypotheses:
- The air is clearer, cleaner, and drier. I grew up in “The Valley” in Massachusetts, where the climate tends to be a bit more mild with higher humidity. This often means more cloudier and foggier days.
- The pine tree population is larger. Of course, pine trees are members of the “evergreen” family, and their thicker and dense branches hold the snow longer, giving the average passerby and onlooker the “white Christmas” appeal all winter.
- There are more mountain and lake views. Among many other communities ranging from central to western Maine, and east of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, Oxford County is just one community that is part of the “Lakes Region”. It’s awe-inspiring to see how many lakes and mountain views that can be seen by a simple drive down the street to the store.
- It is less densely-populated. As of 2018, the population in Otisfield, Maine was recorded at 1,796. Because it’s situated in the “foot hills” of the mountains and deep in the woods, there is less “traffic”—meaning less people, vehicles, animals, and otherwise. Therefore, when it snows, it stays whiter longer. Furthermore, it also snows in smaller batches and more often, consistently leaving a fresh, white, powdery dusting on the ground and trees.
- There is more access to fun. Skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice skating, ice fishing… winter fun in the mountains is endless. No one does fun winter activities like this in Massachusetts. And if they do, they travel north to the mountains and Lakes Region to do them.
Finding Facts and Making Discoveries
- Comparing altitude. A super-quick Google search will tell us that the altitude in Uxbridge, Massachusetts is 270′ (above sea level). The altitude in Otisfield, Maine is 666′ (above sea level). That’s more than double the altitude that I’ve spent my entire life living in (in fact, by approximately 81 percent).
Research will show you that high altitudes can actually have a negative impact on the human respiratory system and even cause dehydration, and even “altitude sickness”. However, this is for extremely high altitudes. Otisfield, Maine is only in the 600s—and according to Harvard Health, “high altitude” at which point causes illness is between 5,000 to 8,000 feet (again, above sea level)—it’s more than double what my body is accustomed to.
- Mountain air is drier. The higher the altitude, the lower the air pressure and the less oxygen, which means the air is drier and clearer. Therefore, on a sunny day, the sun appears brighter and the sky bluer. And when the sun reflects off the snow, it is even brighter. It’s basic “sciencing”. Wallace Nutting describes winter in Maine in his book, Maine Beautiful, “…the splendid tonic of the air, the sparkling snow on the hills…”
- More lakes, hills, and mountains. Perhaps what makes Maine different from any other member state in New England is that the mountain districts are all rich with lakes. Now, picture those snow-capped mountains white and bright, and the gleam of the sun off frozen lakes, reflecting the brightness of the sunshine, and you’re looking at something right out of a magazine—or, an Instagram Story, for you millennial readers.
- Average sunny days. When comparing the number of sunny days between Maine and Massachusetts, Maine wins with an average of 200 sunny days per year. (The U.S. average is 205 sunny days per year.)
Literature Review: More Than a Vacationland…
So, I did what any other nerdy writer would do: head “into town” to the nearest, smallest local library, sifted through the dusty shelves, and pulled out a few books all on MAINE, some dating back as early as 1938. Of all the books I parsed through, of course admiring each writer’s unique writing style, the authors’ recollections were similar: Maine is beautiful.
As author Kenneth Roberts describes in his book, Trending into Maine, “… Maine is large, and no man can have more than the vaguest knowledge of its 33,000 square miles, 1,600 lakes, 2500 miles of coast line.”
Wallace Nutting writes in his book, Maine Beautiful…
“Maine! The very name inspires a deeper breath and longing. While most visitors are satisfied with the sophisticated centers, we find that the discriminating seek out in every quarter throughout Maine those nooks formed by encircling hills, which supply a retreat, a solace, and an uplift… We love the stillness and remoteness of forests.”
Nutting continues on,
“The Maine winter is not disagreeable before the month of February, and even then there are many who enjoy it, so much so that more and more Maine is being visited in the winter by guests who want to know what a real winter is. Those who have the leisure and the means to make [the journey] for a month or so in the winter will find Maine a climate more attractive in some particulars than any other that we know.”
A Call to Create
If you’ve read my blogs, then you know I’ve written a lot about creativity. Research has shown, and Cal Newport even wrote in his book, Deep Work, that one way to harness creativity is to seclude yourself for a few hours or a few months while working on a creative project or problem. In his book, Hidden Places, author Joseph A. Conforti recounts famous writers from Maine who have written novels, poems, memoirs and other forms of literary works, claiming that Maine is “a country of imagination”.
I’m willing to admit that I’m maybe thinking way too much into this, or it might be obvious to you. Julie, of course winter is prettier in the mountains… I’m willing to admit that maybe after living in the same place for so long that I needed to finally get out and explore my horizons. However, after spending winter after winter after long winter in Massachusetts, miserable and suffering with SAD, I’m accepting that for the first time in my adult life I can appreciate winter.