KITTERY – New York City, Steamboat Springs, Colo., and Portland, Ore., have been raging for years with rail jams. And across New England, rail jams have put the mountain action down among the masses in municipal centers, on city streets and out in the urban open.

But rail jams have been slow to move into Maine’s town centers.

That’s why Kittery Trading Post’s fourth annual Turkey Rail Jam in its parking lot last week served as a sweet start to winter.

Young skiers and riders performed on a pile of trucked-in snow, down a 40-foot ramp and up onto rails and boxes, to a crowd of about 80. They vied for prizes, including $500 in cash, and bragging rights. But mostly the event was about throwing down new tricks.

“Out West, there are rail jams in parking lots, they have them on the streets. I’ve been doing this since I was 16,” said Johnny Deuplisea, 23, of Merrimac, Mass. “Next week, I’m going down to the one outside Fenway Park.”

From Burlington, Vt., to Boston, rail jams draw big crowds of young skiers and riders. And over the past three years, Maine’s biggest mountains — Sunday River and Sugarloaf — have hosted a rail jam show in Monument Square, the Downtown Showdown.

That midwinter performance is uncertain for 2012, according to Sunday River spokeswoman Darcy Morse. However, riders and freestyle skiers say the growth in the sport here is inevitable.

“There is definitely huge popularity. There are so many young kids doing it. And these young 13-year-olds are throwing it down,” said Ben Winchell, 21, of Durham, N.H., who competed at Kittery Trading Post on Nov. 18.

Across Maine, rail jams are growing in the mountains, if not in the streets.

Lost Valley in Auburn regularly has jib park competitions, as does Sugarloaf. And this winter for the first time, Saddleback is holding a point series around the Friday Night Lights rail jam that was a huge hit last year.

That first-ever event had music, a bonfire and disco lights.

“The terrain park scene has become really, really popular over the last several years. It is definitely something we are trying to grab hold of and to recognize the fact a lot of customers are asking for it,” said Jared Emerson, Saddleback’s mountain operations supervisor.

However, Bethel may well be the center of rail jam action. The town closed its main street to host a rail jam the past few years.

The logistics of doing so are costly and difficult, said Bethel Chamber of Commerce director Robin Zinchuk. But Bethel didn’t give up.

This year, town leaders decided to move it to the local family ski mountain during the area’s winter festival in February, moving it up the road to Mt. Abram in Greenwood, where a new jib park is growing.

“It’s more of a jam format, not a competition,” said Cliff Harding, Mt. Abram’s terrain park manager.

“With that, you’ve got the stress of two runs and everyone has to throw it down in two runs. Here, it will be more everyone having fun, you’ll be judged on an expression session.”

Mt. Abram will host a jam on Jan. 28, another during the town’s winter festival on Feb. 24, and a third at the end of the season on March 24.

Harding said the three jams are a first step in making the terrain park a destination for riders and freestyle skiers.

“We’ve got a whole quiver of elements. But there are going to be some big elements, maybe a 45-foot step-down, or a big-air jump at the bottom,” Harding said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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