There’s no doubt about it — winter is here, and it brought ski season with it. Sunday River has been open for over a month, Sugarloaf opened a few weeks ago, and most of Maine’s other resorts are projecting openings in the next few weeks before the holidays. After a number of capital improvements over the summer, ski areas statewide are turning their attention to the coming months. No matter your ability level — heck, even if you aren’t a skier — there are plenty of events planned to keep you entertained well into the spring.

TELE DAYS

Telemark skiing continues to surge in popularity, though it’s still a minority activity in the Alpine world. There are a couple of Maine events that cater to fans of the discipline, offering both a chance for newbies to try the sport and for diehards to celebrate free-heel skiing. Mt. Abram in Greenwood hosts the Maine Telemark Festival on Feb. 11, with demos, lessons and a bump contest. About a month later, Saddleback holds its Telemark Invasion for the eighth year in a row. Like the Mt. Abram event, the Invasion includes demos and lessons — as well as a race up and down the slopes.

CONCERTS AND LIVE MUSIC

Increasingly, ski areas have become popular concert venues, and there’s a full calendar of musical acts in the Maine mountains this winter. The biggest events, of course, are Sugarloaf’s season-closing party, the 34th annual Reggae Fest from April 12-15, and Sunday River’s Parrot Head Festival from April 6-8.

RAIL JAMS

Both in the mountains and in more urban locales, rail jams — competitions featuring skiers and riders sliding and tricking on long boxes and metal “rails” — are popping up all over the state. Though the status of the Downtown Showdown in Portland’s Monument Square is up in the air, there’s no shortage of jibbing events this winter.

One Friday each month — Dec. 30, Jan. 13, Feb. 24 and March 16 — Saddleback hosts a “Friday Night Lights” rail jam competition. The series includes blaring music and a blazing fire pit, and is free for participants and viewers. The February jam also counts in the points race for the mountain’s Park Shark Challenge, a season-long contest combining results from rail, air (March 11) and slopestyle (April 1) competitions.

Mt. Abram is planning three rail jams — on Jan. 28, Feb. 24 and March 24.

UNIQUE TO MAINE

One of the great things about Maine skiing is the multitude of unique events. Take, for example, the Ullr Festival at Shawnee Peak on Dec. 28, where a bonfire and torchlight parade welcome the snow god Ullr. Or February’s U.S. National Toboggan Championships at the Camden Snow Bowl. Or Santa Sunday, today at Sunday River, where visitors dressed as Santa ride the lift for free.

My favorite wacky Maine events may be during White White World Week at Sugarloaf. During the shortest and coldest days of the season, skiers cope with dummy launches, theme parties, wild races and other silliness.

Josh Christie is a freelance writer and lifetime outdoors enthusiast. He shares column space in Outdoors with his father, John Christie. Josh can be reached at:

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