The proverb “as the days grow longer, the cold gets stronger” may be true, but that doesn’t stop hardy New Englanders from embracing winter. When snow and frigid temperatures arrive there are many festivals and activities to get you off the couch and out of the house. So grab your snowshoes, skis, toboggans, skates, or simply a heavy coat and scarf, and go enjoy the season.
The first Camden Winterfest debuts with two celebratory weekends of cold-weather activities. On the kickoff weekend (Feb. 1-2), look for 8-foot-tall snow sculptures throughout this coastal village where restaurants and shops will offer winter-themed specials.
Downtown festivities feature CamJam, a competition in Harbor Park where snowboarders and trick skiers compete. In the nearby Amphitheater, a mini-mountain of snow offers kids of all ages opportunities for sledding and building snowmen.
At the community ice-carving event, Tim Pierce, executive chef and master ice carver of the Samoset Resort, will offer how-to guidance to individuals and groups on using traditional artisan tools to create their own ice masterpieces.
Indoor activities at the Camden Public Library include crafts, face painting, and live music by All That Jazz. On Atlantic Avenue, enjoy a variety of hot soups and light snacks donated by local restaurants as a benefit for the library.
The following weekend (Feb. 7-9) the action is centered at the nearby Camden Snow Bowl, a community-owned ski and recreation area hosting the finals of the CamJam competition, and the US National Toboggan Championships.
For 23 years, toboggan racers of all ages have competed to be the fastest team to hurtle down a 400-foot-long chute that empties onto frozen Hosmer Pond. Cheer on teams of two, three, and four people — sometimes dressed in outlandish costumes — as they board traditional wooden toboggans that can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. Other weekend activities at the Snow Bowl include mechanical bull rides, bonfires, music, skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and more. Onsite parking fills early ($8); or take a shuttle ($2) from Village Green in downtown Camden. Winterfest: 207-236-4404, www.camdenwinterfest.com; Snow Bowl: 207-236-3438, www.camdensnowbowl.com
Eat, shop, dance, and party your winter blues away at the 26th annual Newport Winter Festival, a 10-day extravaganza featuring over 150 individual events (Feb. 14-23). This year’s theme, “Winter Latitudes, Tropical Attitudes,” promises a hot time no matter how cold the weather.
The festival’s extensive musical lineup includes BeatleMania, four musicians who capture the spirit, look, and sound of the Beatles; Changes in Latitudes, a tribute band showcasing the tunes by the so-called Mayor of Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet; Live Jazz for Kids, led by vocalist Tish Adams and bassist Dick Lupino; and a Winter Community Concert with the Rhode Island Wind Ensemble.
Bring your camera to the annual ice-sculpting demonstration on Long Wharf Mall where artists wielding chisels, chain saws, blow dryers, and power sanders will transform large blocks of ice into elaborate carvings. Previous years’ creations included scenes of old-world Newport, polar bears, Mickey Mouse on skis, and ice castles with knights in shining armor.
Hungry? Back by popular demand, the Chili Cook-Off is an all-you-can-eat event where restaurants from Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts compete for the coveted title of Best Overall Chili. Area restaurants also compete to see who makes the best wings — spicy and sweet — at the Annual Chicken Wing Cook-Off.
The Day at Easton’s Beach is a popular community tradition that offers free family-oriented activities, including a children’s block hunt, sand-sculpting competition, and a plunge into the icy ocean by the Polar Bears.
Many more events, including a comedy show, winter beach polo, martini contest, and activities for kids can be found on the festival website. Ticket prices vary by event. Winter Festival buttons ($9) provide free admission or significant discounts to all official events as well as discounts at more than 50 local businesses. 401-847-7666, www.newportevents.com/winterfest
Two days of nonstop fun are planned for Lowell’s 14th annual WinterFest Celebration (Feb. 21-22). The family-friendly festival kicks off Friday afternoon with an open skate at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell (bring your own skates and participate for free) followed by dancing, games, and entertainment at the Masonic Center, a snowman snowbank on JFK Plaza, hot roasted marshmallows, and the Microbrew Showcase with performances by Freevolt and Frank Viele.
The revelry continues Saturday with an all-you-can-eat chocolate festival at St. Anne’s Church, ice-sculpture demonstrations, horse-drawn carriage rides, family trivia contest, a meet-and-greet with professional dogsled teams, indoor games and entertainment for kids at Lowell High School, and more.
New this year, WinterFest is partnering with the New England Music Awards to present regional music all weekend long in Club Celsius (all ages free until 6 p.m., $5 cover after 7 p.m.). Also new, outdoor ice games will feature tic-tac-toe in ice and a miniature ice golf course.
Two popular competitions return: Cheer for your favorite competitors at the National Human Dogsled Competition, or get your own team together and mush to the finish line to beat last year’s champs. There is also a prize for the best dressed team. Or if you like to cook — or eat — check out the North Bowl Soup Competition. Sample offerings and cast a ballot for your favorite entry, or bring your own soup, bisque, or gumbo and vie for a juried or people’s choice award. (To compete in either event you must register online.)
Most activities are free. 978-
Pack your downhill or cross-county skis and head to Vermont for the Stowe Derby, one of the oldest and more unique ski races in North America (Feb. 23). Designed as an ultimate test of a skier’s alpine and cross-country abilities, what makes this 12-plus-mile race challenging and fun is that even though it includes both downhill and flat trails, only one pair of skis can be used for the entire course.
The first race, in 1945, was a one-on-one challenge between Erling Strom, a noted mountaineer from Norway, and Sepp Ruschp, an Austrian who arrived in the States to head the new ski school at Stowe. Today, the challenge on the Long Course is much the same. Participants take a chair lift up Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. From the summit, five skiers at a time depart every 30 seconds to race down four miles of hairpin turns along the Auto Toll Road before connecting with trails of the Stowe Mountain Resort Cross Country Center and Trapp Family Lodge Nordic Center. The final portion of the race traverses the flat five-mile Stowe Recreation Path, reaching the village of Stowe after a total vertical drop of 2,600 feet.
Recreational and professional skiers, ages 13 and up, are invited to participate, and over 900 competitors arrive for the event that can take 45 minutes to two hours to complete. For those who prefer to avoid the descent, the Short Course runs along the flat Stowe Recreation Path. The 3½-mile trail is perfect for families and children ages 6 and older. Online registration closes Feb. 21 at noon. $35-$70.