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Nobody wants to succumb to unrestrained weather-related hostility each winter. And the other alternatives – psychotropic drug abuse and/or season-long hibernation – aren’t very appealing either.
But such are the options for folks who don’t prepare against the personality-altering effects of a New England winter.
The cold season can ice our spirits and bury our good natures under a half-ton of ash-colored slush. But we can break free from winter’s frigid clutches with a little help from a toboggan, an ice bar, and a few well-placed snowballs. The key is strategy. We need a wintry plan of attack. For, like the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of February shock therapy.” Here are a few options for staving off winter psychosis:
Jan. 3, Jan. 31, Feb. 28, March 28 | Free | Mt. Abram, Greenwood | www.mtabram.com/news-events
Folks who don’t typically shapeshift with the appearance of the full moon will appreciate the uphill trek to Mt. Abram’s peak, where music and mountain revelry await during the Full Moon Hike. There’s a heated lodge up there, not that you’ll need it. The 50-minute climb will do wonders raising your body temperature and you’ll find yourself periodically disrobing. Hang out, have a beverage, then ski, ride or hike your way down. Bonus: The March 28 Full Moon Hike is 80s-themed.
WE TRIED IT! Chairlifts are for sissies: Full Moon Hike at Mt. Abram
Jan. 22-24 | Portland Harbor Hotel, Portland | $25/$33 with drink ticket | www.portlandharborhotel.com
This annual event features bars carved out of ice in the courtyard (and martini luges to chill the drinks and fire pits to keep you warm) plus food from area restaurants and a DJ. Get tickets early – this event sells out every year (Saturday is already sold out for 2015). Tickets: icebar15.brownpapertickets.com
Jan. 25 | Hidden Valley Nature Center, Jefferson | $25 | hvnc.org/biathlon-2/
Not a great cross-country skier? That’s okay! Never shot an air rifle? No problem! This annual biathlon is open to skiers and shooters of all levels – novice included. (There’s even gear you can borrow and you’ll go through a gun safety session before heading out). Categories for novice, intermediate and advanced skiers – and afterwards enjoy beer and hot toddies.
Jan. 25, Feb. 15, March 1 | Bradbury Mountain State Park, Pownal | $15 | trailmonsterrunning.com/bradburysnow
You can let winter conquer you, or you can conquer winter with a cold-weather sprint up Bradbury Mountain. In snowshoes. The Bradbury Mountain Snowshoe Series includes three races over the course of the season, from a 3.5-mile race in Jan. and a 5-miler in March. And while running uphill is never easy, running uphill while wearing snowshoes is a winter feat that will prove winter is powerless over the likes of you. BYOsnowshoes, although there are some available to borrow on a first come, first served basis.
Feb. 14-15 | Highland Lake and other locations, Bridgton | mainelakeswintercarnival.com
When you were younger, you might’ve conned the family dog into pulling you around the snow-covered yard on a plastic sled, because mushing is an exceptional way to embrace winter. Bridgton’s annual winter carnival boasts a Freezin’ for a Reason polar dip, winter hikes, guided snowshoeing, dodgeball tournament, table tennis tournament, kids snow creation competition, horse drawn wagon rides, ice fishing contest, carnival games, ice skating, snowmobile rides and dogsled rides on Highland Lake. Aspiring mushers can give the family dog a rest and get a first-hand dogsledding experience on either day as long as they sign up beforehand ($30 for a 20-minute ride. Call 207-647-3472 to reserve).
Feb. 6-8 | $30 per person (two-person, three-person and four-person teams) | Camden Snow Bowl | camdensnowbowl.com
Toboggan National Championships Competitors in the U.S. National Toboggan Championships will find out first hand what it’s like to rumble down the 400-foot-long chute and coast out onto a frozen pond. First-timers might focus on their costuming (a cape and a pair of underpants are a surefire hit) and hitting the finish line without losing knuckle flesh to the unforgiving wooden chute walls. Returning riders will want to go faster.
WE TRIED IT! Toboggan run by winter, extremely painful waterslide by summer: U.S. National Toboggan Championships
Feb. 8 | East End Hill, Portland | $40 per team ($30 for junior duo) | www.snowmanadventure.com
The Snowman Adventure Race is a two-person relay combining running, biking and downhill sledding. One teammate heads out first for a half-mile bike ride around Back Cove, the second takes on a 2.25-mile run around the East End. Each leg of the race is begun with a hearty run up the East End hill and a return sled down. And both teammates sled together to the finish. Men’s, women’s, co-ed and adult-child teams.
Feb. 13-15 | All over the state | Many events free | greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org
The Great Maine Outdoor Weekend includes over 100 events around the state – in every county – and throughout the day and evening Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There are winter hikes and owl watches, ice skating and film screenings, winter backpacking and snowshoe adventures (last year there was a snowshoe adventure that ended with a hotdog cookout. Here’s hoping that happens again). Bonus: Many of the events are free.
Feb. 19 | Saddleback Mountain, Rangeley | www.saddlebackmaine.com
Watch the glow of torchlights snake their way down Saddleback Mountain from the base lodge – a rare and beautiful sight. You can participate in the parade, too, so long as you’re an intermediate skier and over the age of 12. Kids under 14 must be with an adult. Following the parade – fireworks! Parade starts at 6 p.m., but be there by 5 p.m. if you plan to participate.
Feb. 19-21 | Old Orchard Street, Old Orchard Beach | www.oob365.com/WinterCarnival.html
The beach doesn’t see a lot of foot traffic in the winter, but Old Orchard Beach’s Winter Carnival aims to bring people beachside for some winter sledding with views of the Atlantic. So what massive hill in OOB will visitors be sledding on? Just a man-made mini-mountain – in the middle of Old Orchard Street. Kids Carnival on Thursday, night sledding and Poker Run pub crawl on Friday and giant snow hill sledding on Saturday (plus hot cocoa and marshmallow toasting and horse-drawn carriage rides). Then hit Jimmy the Greeks for the Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball at 7 p.m. $10 admission.
Feb. 20-22| Fountain Park, Bates Mill Complex, Lewiston | $15, free on Sunday | icefestla.com
By mid-February, winter ice can get pretty thick. Put that ice to work in your favor at the Ice Festival of Lewiston/Auburn, where frosty beverages are served up with a twist and where winter ice is carved into ice bars and cool ice sculptures and ice luges for chilled winter drinks. Because ice doesn’t seem so bad when it’s serving you a cocktail. There’s also food from area restaurants, live music and plenty of revelry to keep everyone warm. $15 on Friday and Saturday (special VIP event on Saturday from 4-5:30 p.m. with a limited number of tickets). The Ice Fest is free and family-friendly on Sunday (there will be food and entertainment for the kids and the igloo might be back).
Feb. 28 | Wells Reserve at Laudholm | www.wellsreserve.org
3 mile snowshoe race, 200 M dash for adults, 100M dash for kids, snowman building, snowshoe rentals, sledding, hot cocoa, bonfire and more
March 1-14 | Restaurants around the state | www.mainerestaurantweek.com
Restaurants around the state are participating in this annual event, which features specially priced three-course meals for $25, $35, $45, and $55. Lunches are $15. For a list of restaurants (betcha can’t pick just one: www.mainerestaurantweek.com/restaurants). There’s also the Incredible Breakfast Cook-off, Pancake Race and The Signature Event Cocktail & Dessert Competition. It’s one delicious week.
March 14 | Shawnee Peak, Bridgton | $5 mattress fee plus lift ticket | www.shawneepeak.com
During the America’s Mattress Race, mattresses of all sizes will take to the mountain at Shawnee Peak. They’ll shirk their once-sedentary lifestyle for a chance to make like a toboggan and slide Shawnee’s Main Slope — with a few riders on top clutching the edges in high-speed fear. The fastest team wins a new king-sized mattress, and there’s also a prize for the most uniquely decorated mattress.
March 14 | Mt. Abram | www.baxteroutdoors.com
There’s a 5K snowshoe for you agile, snowshoeing folks and a 5K snowrun, for those of you who would likely trip, fall and hurt yourselves on the snowshoe’s sharp underbelly. (Note: We’re being dramatic. That’s highly unlikely to happen.) The Cowboy 5K runs in conjunction with Mt. Abram’s Wild West Festival. There will be podium winners plus prizes for best costume, followed by country music, bull riding and Baxter beer specials at the base lodge.
March 21 | Saddleback Mountain, Rangeley | Free | www.saddlebackmaine.com
If you’re not too steady on skis but still long for a mountain decent, try the cardboard box race. You get the thrill of downhill without that pesky loss of control. The race pits cardboard construction against cardboard construction, with the help of some creativity and duct tape. The theme for 2014: Superheroes! I see capes and red underpants in Saddleback’s future!
March 28 | All over the state | www.mainemapleproducers.com
Over 80 sugarhouses and farms around the state will be open for Maine Maple Sunday. Most sugarhouses will offer free maple syrup samples and demonstrations on how pure Maine maple syrup is made. Many farms offer games, activities, treats, sugarbush tours, music, and so much more.