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Shannon Bryan

Shannon Bryan has a fondness for Maine’s peculiar goings on. And helmet cams. There’s definitely a fondness for helmet cams.   Since she arrived in Maine 10 years ago, it’s been her mission to experience it all firsthand – from the cardboard boat races to the paddleboard jousting tournaments. With any luck, she’ll persuade you to try it, too.

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Posted: December 11, 2014

14+ can’t-miss winter events in Maine (most of which are in the snow!)

Written by: Shannon Bryan

Mushing at Bridgton’s Winter Carnival, sledding down East End hill during the Snowman Adventure Race and taking to the chute at the U.S. National Toboggan Championships.

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 (also check out our list of Maine Winter Fairs & Festivals 2015):

Press Herald file photo

Full Moon Hike

Jan. 3, Jan. 31, Feb. 28, March 28 | Free | Mt. Abram, Greenwood |
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

Press Herald file photo

Portland Harbor Hotel Ice Bar

Jan. 22-24 | Portland Harbor Hotel, Portland | $25/$33 with drink ticket |
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:

Always imagined yourself as a biathlete? Of course you have. Gabe Souza/Press Herald file photo

Always imagined yourself as a biathlete? Of course you have. Gabe Souza/Press Herald file photo

Liberal Cup Biathlon

Jan. 25 Postponed to Feb. 8 | Hidden Valley Nature Center, Jefferson | $25 |
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.

Bradbury Mountain Snowshoe Series

Jan. 25, Feb. 15, March 1 | Bradbury Mountain State Park, Pownal | $15 |
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. BYO snowshoes, although there are some available to borrow on a first come, first served basis.

Press Herald file photo

Maine Lakes Winter Carnival

Feb. 14-15 | Highland Lake and other locations, Bridgton |
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).

U.S. National Toboggan Championships

Feb. 6-8 | $30 per person (two-person, three-person and four-person teams) | Camden Snow Bowl |
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

Press Herald file photo

Snowman Adventure Race

Feb. 8 | East End Hill, Portland | $40 per team ($30 for junior duo) |
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.

Get outside. Gordon Chibroski/Press Herald file photo

Get outside. Gordon Chibroski/Press Herald file photo

Great Maine Outdoor Weekend

Feb. 13-15 | All over the state | Many events free |
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.

Snow shoe Games

1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 14 | Roberts Farm Preserve, Norway |
Take a fun outdoor game, add snowshoes. Now you have something extra special. Relay races, three-legged races, egg & spoon, musical chairs and snowshoe wife carry. It’s going to be an awesome two hours.

Annual Torchlight Parade and Fireworks

Feb. 19 | Saddleback Mountain, Rangeley |
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.

OOB Winter Carnival

Feb. 19-21 | Old Orchard Street, Old Orchard Beach |
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.

Ice Festival L/A

Feb. 20-22| Fountain Park, Bates Mill Complex, Lewiston | $15, free on Sunday |
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).

Snow Day at Wells Reserve

Feb. 28 | Wells Reserve at Laudholm |
3 mile snowshoe race, 200 M dash for adults, 100M dash for kids, snowman building, snowshoe rentals, sledding, hot cocoa, bonfire and more

Bartenders shake up cocktails at the Signature Event wrapping up Maine Restaurant Week 2014. Press Herald file photo

Bartenders shake up cocktails at the Signature Event wrapping up Maine Restaurant Week 2014. Press Herald file photo

Maine Restaurant Week(s)

March 1-14 | Restaurants around the state |
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: There’s also the Incredible Breakfast Cook-off, Pancake Race and The Signature Event Cocktail & Dessert Competition. It’s one delicious week.

WinterKids Downhill 24

March 7-8 | Mt. Abram, Greenwood |
Remember when you were a kid and you could spend hours repeatedly doing the same fun thing over and over and over (like asking “are we there yet,” singing songs from Disney movies or playing Tetris for 18 hours straight)? The Downhill 24 is kind of like that, except with skiing. Teams will compete to ski who can squeeze the most run in 24 hours (Let’s do it again! And again! And again!). There will be entertainment all day to keep you going, plus a mechanical bull to enjoy during your skiing breaks. Live bands, a DJ, comedy, snacks, dinner, breakfast, a beer garden and prizes! The event raises money for WinterKids.

America’s Mattress Race

March 14 | Shawnee Peak, Bridgton | $5 mattress fee plus lift ticket |
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.

Packed Powder Series promotional graphic

Packed Powder Series promotional graphic

Winter Cowboy 5k Snowshoe & Snowrun

March 14 | Mt. Abram |
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.

Press Herald file photo

Cardboard Box Race

March 21 | Saddleback Mountain, Rangeley | Free |
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!

Hallmarks of Maine Maple Sunday. Press Herald file photos

Hallmarks of Maine Maple Sunday. Press Herald file photos

Maine Maple Sunday

March 28 | All over the state |
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.

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