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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: January 6, 2016

20+ can’t-miss winter events in Maine

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

Press Herald file photo

Full Moon Hike

5:30 p.m. Feb. 27, Mt. Abram, Greenwood. Free.
The appearance of the full moon means it’s time again for the uphill trek to Mt. Abram’s peak, where music and mountain revelry await. The 50-minute (give or take) climb will do wonders raising your body temperature, but if you’re still chilly when you reach the summit, take comfort in the warming hut at the top. Hang out, have a beverage, then ski, ride or hike your way down.


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

Feb. 28*, Hidden Valley Nature Center, 131 Egypt Road, Jefferson. $30.
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 afterward enjoy beer and hot toddies. Advanced registration required this year and it’s likely to sell out so plan ahead! *Due to snow conditions, organizers moved this annual event until late February.

Ice Bar at Brunswick Hotel & Tavern

5 to 10 p.m. Feb. 4-6, Inn at Brunswick Station, Brunswick, $16 in advance, $20 at the door.
There will be an ice bar and drink luge (but of course) plus live entertainment and food from the tavern (like pork potato skins and house pretzels with dipping sauce). Tickets:

JC Annual Ice Ball

6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 6, Alfond Center, St. Joseph’s College, 278 Whites Bridge Road, Standish. $25 before Jan. 23, $30 after.
If you’re not a student at St. Joseph’s College, their annual Ice Ball is a good reason to get on campus. The ball includes an ice bar (cash bar), fire pits and an indoor lounge to warm up and hang out. It’s open to the public, so long as you’re over 21. Fun attire encouraged and the event is open to alumni, friends and the local community. Register online at

U.S. National Toboggan Championships

Feb. 5 to 7, Camden Snow Bowl, 20 Barnestown Road, Camden. $30 per person (two-person, three-person and four-person teams), $100 for team in experimental division.
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.

Press Herald file photo

Snowman Adventure Race

Feb. 6, East End Hill, Portland. $40 per adult 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 4.5-mile bike ride around Back Cove, the second takes on a 2.25-mile run around the East End and Back Cove. 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. 12-14, all over the state. Many events free.
The Great Maine Outdoor Weekend includes dozens upon dozens of events around the state 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 (one 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.

Bradbury Mountain Snowshoe Series

Feb. 14 and March 6, Bradbury Mountain State Park, Pownal. $20.
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-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. 20, 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, table tennis tournament, horse-drawn wagon rides, ice fishing contest, snowmobile rides and dogsled rides on Highland Lake, among other activities.  

Mellie Dunham Snowshoe Festival

10 a.m. to noon 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.

Ice Festival L/A

5 to 9 p.m. Feb. 19 and 20, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 21, Fountain Park, Bates Mill Complex, Lewiston. VIP Friday night: $25 in advance, $30 at the door, Saturday: $15 in advance, $20 at the door, Sunday Family Day: Free for children 18 and under, $2.50 adults in advance, $5 adults at the door.
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. Friday is VIP night and Sunday is family friendly and free for kids.

OOB Winter Carnival

Feb. 18-20, 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 party on Friday and ice bowling, pony rides and a Slippery Slope Pub Crawl (for the grownups) on Saturday (plus hot cocoa and marshmallow toasting).

Flavors of Freeport Chef’s Signature Series and Ice Bar

5 to 9 p.m. Feb. 19 and 5 to 8 p.m. Feb 20, The Hilton Garden Inn, 5 Park St., Freeport. $27.37 to $43.19.
Frosty beverages, ice sculptures, twinkling lights, snow machines and roaring fires. That’s how Freeport does an Ice Bar! On Friday night, enjoy cocktails in the courtyard and then head inside to dance to the funky tunes of Motor Booty Affair. On Saturday, the Ice Bar runs in conjunction with the Chef’s Signature Series event and there will be a DJ. Both events are part of the Flavors of Freeport Weekend. More on that and tickets:

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 1-12, 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, The Cocktail Quest and The Great Coffee and Dessert Pairing Event. It’s one delicious week.

WinterKids Downhill 24

March 11-12, Sugarloaf, 5092 Access Rd, Carrabassett Valley.
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!). Also cool, this is the first time in Sugloaf’s history that there will be night skiing. The whole effort benefits WinterKids.

America’s Mattress Race

March 12, Shawnee Peak, 119 Mountain Road, 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.

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