Virginia is for lovers. Now there’s a state slogan that works its magic to lure tourists. “Live Free or Die” is in another category altogether—a state slogan with attitude. There is even a state with the slogan, “Great Potatoes,” which I am happy to report is not the Pine Tree state’s slogan, not that we are not proud of our potatoes.

Other states, not to be caught flat-footed, have been busy rebranding themselves. Alabama is no longer the Heart of Dixie, perhaps because not everyone has such fond recollections of Dixie. And Colorado recently changed its slogan from “Fresh Air and Fond Memories” to “Enter a Higher State,” apparently referring to its mountains and not the recent marijuana referendum.

But back to Maine.

A number of years ago, I was returning to Maine when I got delayed in bad weather at a connecting airport somewhere in the Midwest. There were a large number of stranded passengers thrust together in a small waiting area back before 24-hour news cycles blared incessantly overhead and before so-called smart phones, which meant we actually spent time interacting with each other.

I was sitting next to a talkative fellow from Mississippi. He asked us where I lived and I told him. He looked startled and asked incredulously (this is true), “Do you have to live there?” As if it were a penal colony.

All of us know that there are three things that come to most Americans’ minds when thinking about Maine—lobsters, lighthouses and winter. We have done a pretty good job turning what some people consider to be our greatest liability—long hard winters—into marketable assets. Our state slogan used to be “Vacationland,” but people do not tend to think of a visit to Maine in winter as a vacation.

No, instead we offer tens of thousands of miles of snowmobile trails that crisscross every town and corner of the state ( And we have the fabulous downhill resorts of Sugarloaf ( and Sunday River (, that bring in large numbers of out-of-state-dollars. Maine Huts and Trails ( has also done an admirable job of creating an ever expanding system of cross country ski trails ending at off-the-grid huts with a warm staff and cheerful bonhomie.

Up in the County, the Maine Winter Sports Centers, ( with facilities at Presque Isle and Fort Kent, host international Olympic qualifying cross country ski races and biathlon events that have brought millions of dollars to a region that would otherwise not have seen one of those dollars. They may offer tastes of Maine’s rebranded slogan, “The Way Life Should Be.”

The HBO show, Game of Thrones, gins up fear and anxiety among viewers through the repetition of the dirge-like one-liner, “Winter is Coming!” which happens also to be the motto of the appropriately named House of Stark, the Lords of the North in this convoluted but gripping tale.

And the scariest creatures in this dark story are the White Walkers, large, deadly mysterious creatures who live beyond the Wall—Out There!  No wonder most Americans seem to have a primal fear of The Cold, a.k.a., Maine in winter.

During a winter like this past one (can you believe it is really over?), you have to be slightly crazy to relish the thought of outdoor activities. The polar vortex, which descended over the eastern two-thirds of the country for almost a week in January, was headline news every night on TV. But then it went back to where it came from everywhere else in the country except Maine, where its giant fist beat us senseless week after interminable week for four months.

So what to do? I am not recommending this strategy for everyone; in fact, I hardly recommend it to myself after this winter. But, nevertheless, it is a valuable trick of the mind. Between December and April, get up in the dark, put on running clothes, gather in front of your local post office with anyone you can get to join you, put your head down and run or walk into the early stirrings of the day. Get the blood going and the rest of the day will be easier. I guarantee it. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, which is why after this winter I think the state motto should be Maine is for “¦ maniacs, as my old friend from Mississippi would agree.

Philip Conkling is a founder of the Island Institute. He now operates Conkling & Associates, a consulting firm.