The Herbert was filled last weekend with an exuberant group of guests who socialized and shared their experiences around the fireplace on Friday and Saturday nights. Some were entered in the East Coast SnoCross, others competed in the Banked Slalom and still others simply planned to enjoy snowshoeing or cross country skiing with Maine Huts and Trails.
Anyone listening to the lively conversations going on in the hotel lobby, however, would have thought that this large group was made up of old friends of many different ages and with diverse interests who had chosen to hold their reunion at the Herbert Grand Hotel. This phenomenon frequently occurs here. People who seem to have nothing in common become instant friends as they sprawl comfortably on the couches, glass of wine or beer in hand, and find topics in common.
Snowmobile racers, some as young as six years old, were excited about the East Coast SnoCross, which had returned to Maine after a five-year absence. I listened to the parents of the younger racers and to the less young racers talk about the “skid maneuvers” they had seen and about the new moves that would make them stronger competitors. I also just had to know how a six-year-old or an eight-year-child handles a snowmobile, and I received an education in that area. The snowmobiles are size and speed appropriate for each youth age category. And, of course, snowmobile racers of all ages suit up in uniforms containing such advanced technology that they would put the cartoon character Speed Racer to shame.
My guests competing in the Banked Slalom snowboarding competition on Saturday and, if they made the cut, Sunday had their own war stories to tell. As a rule, I find that snowboarders are pretty laidback when they talk to me at desk and when they sit around the lobby simply relaxing, but they are INTENSE when they talk about the Slalom. Every one of them praised the Banked Slalom as a tough course that is the ultimate test of their speed, agility and endurance. To a man (yes, all of our guests who were competing were male), they assured me that the course is tightly banked and “really gnarly.” I believed them. I know that I will never have the thrill of trying out that challenging course, but I enjoyed hearing about it!
The conversations were fast and furious, and I learned a lot about the thrills and pitfalls of snowmobile racing and about taking on the Banked Slalom. I also felt the warm glow of hearing the high-energy racers talk with the less-intense guests who were planning leisurely days snowshoeing and cross country skiing. No one pulled attitude. No one considered himself or herself a star. All I heard was the wonderful sound of people sharing experiences.