During the debut of the Bethel WinterFest Lower Main Street Rail Jam on Thursday night in a snowstorm, snowboard riders standing atop the starting hill built in the eastbound lane of Main Street beside The Sudbury Inn, watch a boarder launch himself down the 150-foot-long course. The course featured a couple of rail boxes and a jib atop which the riders spun and did tricks for points in the three-hour event.

While Thursday night traffic slowly drives by, Trevor Stockdale of Rumford takes in a practice slide down a 22-foot-long rail built on a 150-foot-long snow course in the eastbound lane of Main Street in Bethel for Thursday night’s Lower Main Street Rail Jam.

During a snowstorm, Curtis Bolduc of Rumford lands on a rail while spinning off a jump during Thursday night’s first Lower Main Street Rail Jam competition in the eastbound lane in Bethel.

One of two brothers entered in Thursday night’s Lower Main Street Rail Jam at the Bethel WinterFest leaps off a jump while spinning a trick above a rail, as his brother approaches. The pair took off nearly simultaneously, heading down the 150-foot-long course built in the eastbound lane of Main Street for the debut event.

Crowds lining the westbound lane of Main Street in Bethel on Thursday night watch a skier jump and spin while performing a trick on a 22-foot-long rail in the debut Lower Main Street Rail Jam.

BETHEL — Thursday was the only day of the year that it was legal to perform jumps and twists while skiing and snowboarding down Main Street.

Normally, there isn’t enough snow, because it’s plowed away.

However, in less than three hours, volunteers from Sunday River and Mount Abram ski resorts and Bethel WinterFest trucked in snow and built a 150- by 20-foot slope in the eastbound lane for the debut of the Lower Main Street Rail Jam competition.

“It’s a great way for the mountains to get to connect with the downtown,” Kevin Rosenberg, Mount Abram marketing and sales director, said during practice for the event.

Each resort brought in some rails for the course from their terrain parks. It was built between The Sudbury Inn and Bethel Kitchen Designs.

By 5:30 p.m., nearly 20 skiers and snowboarders ages 8 to 34 who qualified at Mount Abram rail competitions this month were to compete.

“These guys, a lot of them are amateur riders,” Rosenberg said. “Some of them are excelling in the Gould Academy and Sunday River program, and some are local snowboarders that rip the mountain every day.” 

The top snowboarder and the top skier to shred the three-rail course in several runs and score the most points for twists, spins and slides each would win $300.

“What a great way to let our ski resorts shine,” event organizer Nathan Clukey said, taking a short break from shoveling and raking snow into place for a small jump onto a jib rail.

“This is awesome,” competitor Trevor Stockdale of Rumford said. “It’s a pretty good course. I love it.”

During practice runs from 4:30 to 6 p.m., skiers and snowboarders took turns zipping down the course and trying out their tricks. Eastbound traffic that wasn’t detoured onto side streets slowly drove past, drivers and passengers gawking at the spectacle.

“This is pretty fun for what we’ve got,” said Gould Academy student and rail jam competitor Chris Lee of Brookline, Mass.

In November, selectmen OK’d Clukey’s rail jam idea, which was to close the eastbound lane of Main Street from Clark Street to Home Slice Pizza from noon to about 9 p.m. for a two- to three-hour event that could attract more than 1,000 people to downtown area businesses.

Less than three weeks later, however, selectmen asked Clukey and the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce to scale it back after some business owners and residents along the venue raised concerns.

Selectmen also approved an ordinance amendment allowing non-vehicular traffic — skiers and snowboarders — on Main Street during special events such as the WinterFest rail jam.

By 6:30 p.m., shortly after the event began, 400 to 500 people had crowded around the venue, WinterFest co-organizer Jim Bennett said.

They watched skiers compete, taking a sudden snow squall in stride.

“It was a very successful first-time event,” Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the chamber, said in an e-mail after the awards were handed out at 9 p.m.

Lee took first place in the snowboard competition, while Zack James of Portland took second and Greg Kennaugh of Bethel took third.

In the skiing competition, Sam Parker of Gould Academy and Bethel took first place, followed by Curtis Bolduc of Rumford in second place and coach Richie Paradise of Cranmore, N.H. in third.

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Gould Academy student Chris Lee of Brookline, Mass., rides a 22-foot-long rail during practice runs on a 150-foot-long course in the eastbound lane at Thursday night’s Lower Main Street Rail Jam in Bethel. Lee later won first place in the rail jam’s snowboard competition. The event was part of Bethel Winterfest.

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