When the winning team dashed across the finish line on the half pipe at Shawnee Peak, the official speed was 35 mph. The team wasn’t on skis, boards or even sleds, but lying down and holding tight to a rope stretched atop a mattress.

Bright sun and great conditions last weekend made for an awesome closing to the season Saturday at Shawnee Peak. 2010 marks the third year for mattress racing on the final weekend. That’s right. Mattress racing.

The 3rd Annual America’s Mattress Race had 13 teams of all sizes. There were twin, full, queen and king all competing for a brand new queen-sized Serta set courtesy of America’s Mattress, the event’s sponsor. Prizes were awarded for fastest and best-decorated mattresses.

Teams adorned and prepped their beds for speed, got situated atop them — there was a 4-person team limit — and then received a healthy push at the top of the half pipe. A mogul groomed into the course added an extra array of excitement for riders and spectators alike.

Signing their life away

“It’s pretty stiff competition out there,” said Josh Harrington, marketing and sales coordinator for Shawnee Peak at the registration table just before the race. “I’ve seen a bunch of shrink-wrap, tarps and plastic.” He was referring to aids that enhance a mattresses speed.

All team members had to sign a release form. Helmets were also required.

These mattress racers know what works when it comes to slickening the bottom of a cloth-covered cushion so it will glide rather than drag across the hard-packed icy snow.

“We’re defending champions,” announced Paul Armington of Lovell before the race, and a member of Tank. “We’ve got to keep up our reputation.”

Tank’s strategy worked so well in ’09 that they brought the very same mattress, a king size, back to defend the title.

There are so many variables at play here it’s tough for the uninitiated to grasp it all. The rules allow for a mattress covering, like a tarp, to be attached, but elevating your mattress on skis or a sled is strictly verboten. One team got raised a bit by taking both box spring and mattress down the course.

Tank was prepped for battle and chose to dress their foam slider in a camouflaged tarp. No tank is complete without artillery. Tank had a long, matching camouflaged “barrel” mounted on a bipod. An American flag completed the ensemble.


Mystery spray

A closer look at the underside of Tank’s mattress revealed the telltale appearance of “ice and water shield,” that black, tarp-like membrane roofers apply to guard against ice dams at the edge of a roof. (At least one other entry had this). Shortly before the race, Tank members broke out two spray cans of some sort of mystery lubricant and coated the mattress’ underside. The labels had been purposely shielded from rivals with black tape.

Other looks included a team dubbed Birthday Cake. Large, colorful felt-covered candles, complete with yellow fabric resembling flames, donned their colorful mattress.

Zoomer Groomer was outfitted with a car-like body shell constructed from cardboard and painted black and red and was awarded “best decorated.”

The mountainside looked like a float parade as entrants dragged their sleds up the hill to the starting line.


Race time

The first few runs achieved respectable speeds in the high 20 mph range. But the course proved challenging for some. Spinning mattresses banging off the banks were not uncommon. Some tracked poorly and got caught up in the shoulder of the half pipe, unable to coast to the finish line on gravity alone. Some participants actually lost their shoes trying to kick and steer their cushions straight.

Then, a team came down with great speed. They actually achieved lift on the course’s mogul. It was Tank. Their speed was so great, their course so true, they nearly careened up and over the mountain of snow that served as a backstop at the end of the course!

The four-person Tank was piloted by two father and son pairings: Paul and Adam Armington of Lovell, and Keith and Tyler Nadeau of Sweden. They are the undisputed champions of Shawnee Peak mattress racing.

While others took Shawnee Peak’s offer of recycling their mattresses at the close of the race, Team Tank took their tried-and-true speed demon back home.

A few words to prospective challengers in 2011: Practice. Train. Prepare. Team Tank is professional grade.


Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: [email protected]


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