Chances to challenge yourself, all over the state. Plus a few quieter activities.
U.S. National Toboggan Championships
Camden Snow Bowl
Every year the Camden Snow Bowl hosts the U.S. National Toboggan Championships. While it might be too late to register (this three-day event fills up fast and at press time, over 300 teams had already signed up) it is not too late to head up to Camden and bear witness to the beautiful insanity of humans climbing aboard traditional wooden toboggans to willingly hurtle down a 400-foot long chute that has been lined with layers of ice.
Is there a trick to winning? “There are all manner of theories,” says Camden Snow Bowl assistant manager Holly Anderson. “Some people think the trick is to put the heaviest person in the front; some say you should put the heaviest person in the back.” It also depends on how hardy your toboggan is. “And the coatings.” Say what? Like waxing your skis, Anderson explains. The weirdest one she’s heard of is muskrat oil. “I don’t know if that is a rumor or the truth but I’m going with truth.”
The first chute at the Snow Bowl was built in 1936 and started over time before eventually deteriorating beyond repair. In 1990 volunteers rebuilt it and the first U.S. National Toboggan Championship launched the next year. It’s weather dependent but Camden hasn’t missed an event since. To ice the chute they use a water-filled lobster tote, rope and pulleys to build up those layers of ice. Participants can build their own toboggans, but the rules call for them to be “solidly constructed.” And yes, there are inspections in advance, along with stickers confirming you are safe for the chute. Proceeds are used to offset the Snow Bowl’s operating budget.
Spectators are definitely welcome, Anderson says. “Once they are spectators they usually want to come back as racers the next year.” Attendance is free. The parking lot ($10) is often full up with racers but a shuttle ($5) runs throughout the day from Village Green in the middle of town. (camdensnowbowl.com)
Maine Pond Hockey Classic
Snow Pond Center for the Arts, Sidney
For hockey lovers, what could be more scenic than watching a pond hockey tournament in the great outdoors? For the fifth year this major pond hockey tournament, which typically lures about 70 teams from all over New England, is at the Snow Pond Center for the Arts on Messalonskee Lake. Watch from the shoreline as the competition unfolds over three days, starting Friday evening at 5 p.m., all day Saturday (8 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and wraps up Sunday (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Teams will raise money for the Waterville Area Boys & Girls Club and the YMCA at the Alfond Youth Center in Waterville. (mainepondhockey.org)
Acadia Winter Festival
Schoodic Institute, Winter Harbor
Just because it’s winter, that doesn’t mean a trip to Acadia National Park is out of the question. The Acadia Winter Festival covers three days of mostly free fun, with cross-country skiing, lectures (including one on the ice age in Maine), forest bathing, lessons in building bird feeders and snowshoe basics and of course, a baked bean supper. It’s at the Schoodic Institute in Winter Harbor, with some events held at the festival headquarters in Schooner Commons Lounge. Many events are free, and all are open to the public. (207–288–1310; schoodicinstitute.org/event/acadia-winter-festival)
Feb. 8, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
MOFGA’s Community Education Center, Common Ground Fairgrounds, Unity
Yes it’s the dead of winter, but what a great time to be planning for warm weather activities. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association is hosting a basic beekeeping course with David Smith, past state apiary inspector and the owner of Sparky’s Apiaries in Hope. You’ll be promoting pollinators and making honey in no time. ($55 for MOFGA members, $75 for non-members; 207–568–4142; register in advance at mofga.org)
Feb. 15, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Roberts Farm Preserve, Norway
Norway has a rich history with snowshoe manufacturing, with the region’s flexible white ash serving as the main material for much of the 20th century. The companies that made the snowshoes there have all left, but the town, led by the Western Foothills Land Trust still celebrate its history with its annual Snowshoe Festival. There’s a parade (11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) with prizes, as well as games (check out the three-legged race). You’ll also get a chance to race at varying levels (a 2K, a 5K and a 10K, sponsored by Dion Snowshoes). ($10 adults, $5 youth in advance or day of $15 adults, $10 youth; 207–739–2124; register at wfltmaine.org)
Feb. 15, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Gilsland Farm, Falmouth
Maine Audubon throws a party in the snow, featuring outdoor activity stations, including a winter wildlife touch table. There will be face painting, snowshoeing with L.L.Bean’s Outdoor Discovery School and a few indoor activities. (Members and children under 2 are free, $9 for non-members; maineaudubon.org)
Polar Bear Dip
Feb. 29, 11 a.m. for registration
East End Beach, Portland
Celebrate Leap Year by taking a frigid dip in Casco Bay to raise money for Camp Sunshine. The summer camp is hoping to raise $20,000, enough to send eight children with life-threatening illnesses (and their families) to the camp in Casco. Miss Maine, Carolyn Brady, is already signed up to take the plunge. But if you really can’t make it in the water, do the “chicken dip,” toes only. Raise $100 and more and get an “I DID IT” t-shirt. Registration is at 11 a.m., prepare to freeze at noon. (Register or donate in advance at campsunshine.org)