If you want a real New England winter, there’s no place like Bethel, ME, where outdoor fun is big business. By Diane Bair & Pamela Wright
Perhaps no place in New England does winter better—or enjoys it more—than Bethel, ME. This mountain village wears the crown when it comes to celebrating the snowy season. They’ve built a Guinness World Record-breaking snow woman (she stood 122 feet tall), attempted to make 2,400 snow folk (one for each resident), and recently threw a party featuring an erupting “snow-cano,” a 40-foot bonfire built upon a massive snow pile. You might know this area for its mega ski resort, Sunday River, named the #2 resort in the East by SKI magazine. Thanks to more than 14 feet of natural snow per year, the skiing is great, but there’s much more to celebrate in this winter playground.
Insert yourself into a postcard-perfect winter scene—complete with horse-drawn sleigh—at the The Bethel Inn Resort. This classic inn blends old New England charm (think plaid quilts and wood-burning fireplaces) with modern comforts like Jacuzzi tubs in cozy harmony. Plus, there’s outdoor fun quite literally in the backyard. The property is laced with more than 20 miles of cross-country ski trails and five miles of snowshoe trails. There’s even an ice rink. 21 Broad St., 207-824-2175. The seven-suite Sudbury Inn B&B (c. 1873) is another lovely option, where a breakfast of blueberry pancakes, omelets, and homemade granola will fuel your bunch for a day on the mountain. There’s a free shuttle to the mountain every half hour, and you can enjoy some après ski ambiance back at the inn, where the Suds Pub offers updated pub grub and 29 draught beers. 151 Main St., 207-824-2174.
After a day in Maine’s winter wonderland, nobody wants a salad! Make those carbs count at 22 Broad Street. This snug Italian restaurant and martini bar (22 varieties) offers well-executed pasta dishes in a fireside setting. 22 Broad St., 207-824-3497. The Studio Bistro Bar at the Mill Hill Inn offers an interesting menu of tapas to mix, match, and share. The black bean-and-sweet potato quesadilla is a refreshing change from ski lodge cafeteria chili, and the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus wins points for presentation. 24 Mill Hill Rd., 207-824-3241. Chef-owned Rooster’s Roadhouse is beloved by local families and is famous for its clam chowder and pizza, which can hit the spot when the mercury hovers around zero. 159 Mayville Rd., 207-824-0309.
Sunday River Resort
At Sunday River Resort, test your mettle on 132 ski trails spread out over eight peaks and five terrain parks. Looking for a different kind of rush? Try ziplining. Race a friend on the 750-foot twin zip, or take a three-hour tour of six ziplines, which fly through the woods at speeds of up to 25 mph. 115 South Ridge Rd., Newry, 800-543-2754. For a mellower ride—maybe!—connect with the folks at Mahoosuc Guide Service for a memorable trip across Lake Umbagog, led by a team of rowdy Yukon huskies. Route 26, 207-824-2073. And if you want to return home with a memento (other than sore muscles), stop by Mt. Mann Jewelers, whose dazzling pink-and-green “watermelon” tourmalines will brighten up any winter outfit. Each piece is mined, cut, designed, and set by the owner. 57 Main St., 207-824-3030.