By Ray Routhier
Skiers dream about being able to roll out of bed and right onto the slopes.
That dream has become reality at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton, where on Saturday folks will be able to roll out onto the slopes without ever leaving their mattresses.
It's time for Shawnee Peak's annual Mattress Race, sponsored by ... wait for it ... America's Mattress & Furniture Gallery. The beautiful thing about free enterprise is that it really does prompt some pretty goofy creativity sometimes.
Maine's ski areas seem to be a good example of that, where wife-carrying races, mattress races, pond skimming contests and more have become ways to bring in customers besides the typical skiing-related activities.
The mattress races at Shawnee Peak started around 2008 as a way to bring a little excitement to the slopes at the end of the ski season. It's turned into an annual tradition that attracts about 20 teams and hundreds of spectators each year.
The wackiness starts with the mode of conveyance itself -- a mattress. For fairness sake, there are no air mattresses or water beds allowed, just plain old Serta or Sealy or some other brand known for a good night's sleep.
People are encouraged to decorate the mattresses, wear silly costumes and have fun.
Some folks have dressed as cows, which just looks funny -- you know, cows sliding down a mountain on a mattress. Others have dressed in sheets and called their team "Three Sheets to the Wind." (Teams can have up to four riders per mattress, but three sheets sounds better.)
And then there's the crucial element -- how to make the mattress slippery. Some entrants have used "mystery" sprays that they will not reveal to other entrants. Most people just wrap the underside of the mattress in something slippery.
"We've seen tarps, plastic, Saran Wrap, anything to make it slippery," says Rachael Wilkinson, marketing director at Shawnee Peak. "But no skis or sleds (allowed)."
The mattress races don't start at the top of the hill, just a portion that's about 50 yards long. Fastest time wins.
And what do they win? A mattress, of course. Specifically, a king-sized mattress from America's Mattress & Furniture Gallery valued at $999.
Not a lot of folks have raced mattresses on snow, so Shawnee Peak takes precautions. Racers have to wear helmets, and children ages 17 and under must have their parent's permission and a signed liability release.
Not only does Shawnee Peak take precautions, it'll take your mattress after the race is over. So if you've got some extra mattresses stacked against the wall and don't foresee being involved in a Mafia war anytime soon, the race is a fun way to get rid of them.
But keep in mind that some race winners have used the same mattress again, to race another day.
And if you do win and take your mattress home to proudly display in the living room, it'll be quite a conversation starter.
"Yup, that's my racing mattress. Ain't she a beaut?"
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:
Another view of the race from a helmet cam
Shawnee Peak’s annual mattress race attracts about 20 teams and hundreds of spectators each year. Participants are encouraged to decorate their mattresses, wear silly costumes, name their teams and just generally have fun with it.