From ice bars to toboggan races and much more, there are so many ways to embrace winter in Maine.
Nobody wants to succumb to unrestrained weather-related hostility each winter. Other alternatives – psychotropic drug abuse and/or seasonlong 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, as 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:
FULL MOON HIKE
Folks who don’t typically shape shift 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.
Jan. 11, Feb. 15, March 15; free; Mt. Abram, Greenwood; www.mtabram.com/news-events
BRADBURY MOUNTAIN SNOWSHOE SERIES
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 January and a 5-miler in March. And while running uphill is never easy, running uphill while wearing snowshoes is a feat that will prove winter is powerless over the likes of you.
Jan. 19, Feb. 16, March 9; Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal; $15; trailmonsterrunning.com/ bradburysnow
PORTLAND HARBOR HOTEL ICE BAR
This annual event features bars carved out of ice in the courtyard, food from area restaurants and a DJ for entertainment. Tickets must be purchased in advance, please note the event sells out; Saturday night is sold out with the exception of some overnight packages with Ice Bar tickets.
Jan. 23 to 25; Portland Harbor Hotel, Portland; $25/$31 with drink ticket; www.evesatthegarden.com
WINTER WILD EVENT AT SUNDAY RIVER
Downhill. That’s generally the direction people go on snow-covered mountains. They might choose to ski down, tube down, sled down or ride down. But they’re all going down. Not you. You defy gravity and the presence of ski lifts by going up that mountain on foot. The Winter Wild Event at Sunday River (a first this year) is a 4.15-mile race up the mountain and back down. It won’t be easy, but it does end at the White Cap Lodge, so there’s always food and drink to look forward to.
Jan. 25; Sunday River Ski Resort, Newry; $20 in advance/$25 day of; www.newinterwild.com
MAINE LAKES MUSHERS’ BOWL AND WINTER CARNIVAL
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. And dogs. Bridgton’s annual Mushers’ Bowl includes two days of dogsled races and skijoring (wherein people on skis are pulled by their canine friends) at Five Fields Farm. The winter carnival a few weeks later boasts a Freezin’ for a Reason polar dip, winter hikes, guided snowshoeing, dodgeball tournament, snowmobile rides and dogsled rides on Highland Lake. Aspiring mushers can give the family dog a rest and get a firsthand dogsledding experience on either day as long as they sign up beforehand.
• Mushers’ Bowl, Jan. 25 and 26; Five Fields Farm, Bridgton; www.mainelakesmushersbowl.com
• Winter Carnival, Feb. 15 to 16; Highland Lake and other locations, Bridgton; www.mainelakesmushersbowl.com
U.S. NATIONAL TOBAGGAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Competitors in the U.S. National Toboggan Championships will find out firsthand 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.
Feb. 7-9; $30 per person (two-person, three-person and four-person teams); Camden Snow Bowl; camdensnowbowl.com
SNOWMAN ADVENTURE RACE
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. 8; East End Hill, Portland; $40 per team ($30 for junior duo); www.cascobayevents.com/snowmanadventure
ICE FESTIVAL L/A 2014
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 no fewer than five ice bars and a dozen ice sculptures. Because ice doesn’t seem so bad when it’s serving you a cocktail. Admission includes hors d’oeuvres tickets on Friday and Saturday; the Ice Fest is free and family-friendly on Sunday.
Feb. 21 to Feb. 23; Fountain Park, Bates Mill Complex, Lewiston; $10 in advance, $15 at the door, free Sunday; icefestla.com
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. Sledding and pub crawl (for the grownups) on Friday and a sled-a-thon on Saturday. Plus hot cocoa and marshmallow toasting pits.
Feb. 21 and 22; Old Orchard Street, Old Orchard Beach; www.oob365.com/WinterCarnival.html
During the America’s Mattress Race, mattresses of all sizes will take to the mountain at Shawnee Peak. They’ll shrug off 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 15; Shawnee Peak, Bridgton; $5 mattress fee plus lift ticket; www.shawneepeak.com
CARDBOARD BOX RACE
If you’re not too steady on skis but still long for a mountain descent, 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 22; Saddleback Mountain, Rangeley; free; www.saddlebackmaine.com