Sunday River in Newry, Maine, is a favorite with North Shore families. It’s only three hours away, and once you arrive, it’s nonstop fun.
Here are 13 things to love about it:
1. Mountain Peaks that Go On Forever.
From the parking lot of South Ridge, you are greeted by a sweep of trails that march a full three miles across eight interconnected peaks. All trails have stunning views of the Mahoosuc Range. Ride to the top of the Jordan Bowl Express, and climb to the observation deck. On a clear day, the view stretches to the Atlantic Ocean.
2. Skiing and Snowboarding.
Out of 135 trails, 75 percent are either intermediate or beginner. Five of eight peaks have a beginner trail off the top, so you never have to worry about riding a lift to a trail that is beyond your family’s ability. Plus, with trails spread over 870 acres and 16 lifts, you may have a trail completely to yourself, which is good for youngsters who zig while others zag.
The best strategy is to pick a lift and lap several runs, and then bop over to the next peak, so you aren’t always traversing. Five high-speed lifts keep you moving. As the central runs get skied out, move to White Cap to the east for serious pitch and Jordan Bowl to the west for long, scenic cruisers and youngster-friendly tree skiing at Blind Ambition and Wizards Gulch.
3. Easy Access.
Start at the South Ridge Base Lodge, which has all the essentials: tickets, eateries, ski school, rentals, ski shop, cubbies, and easy terrain for warming up. Keep tabs on the action through large windows facing the slopes. It’s just a few steps to the popular Chondola (gondolas plus six-person chairs) that whisks you to the top of North Peak in less than seven minutes.
Double black White Heat is one of New England’s premier trails. Aurora Peak’s glades and steeps keep experts coming back for more. At Oz, from Kansas, drop into ungroomed double blacks like Flying Monkey and the Tin Woodsman.
5. Big Air.
Local boy and X Games winner Simon Dumont designed North Peak’s T72 and 3D terrain parks, while Wonderland, with its easy snow rollers and berms, is perfect for little rippers. Four terrain parks in all.
6. Top-Notch Conditions.
In 2007, Michigan-based Boyne Resorts bought Sunday River and channeled $20 million into improvements, including extending snowmaking to over more than 90 percent of the terrain. As for grooming, that perfect corduroy you see in the photos? That’s for real.
A small Maine town of 3,000 souls just six minutes from the mountain, Bethel has lodging, shops, and eateries. Says Wende Gray, a 40-year resident, “I love Bethel because it is a real rural town, not just a ‘made for the resort’ town. Our Brooks Brothers is the local hardware store, not a haberdashery. Timberland Outlet is a woods road with logging truck traffic. You can eat with the locals at the Crossroads diner.”
On-slope, you are never far from fuel. South Ridge Base Lodge offers everything from burgers to a sushi bar. North Peak has the sticky buns. Barker’s Lodge is known for its crêpes. The best lunch spot, some say, is Sliders at Jordan Bowl. Try the kids’ buffet at Camp in the Grand Summit Hotel.
Downtown Bethel has a good share of pub food for affordable family dining. The recently renovated Sunday River Brewing Company specializes in casual dining options like pizza and burgers. Bethel also has many choices for more upscale eateries.
9. Variety of Lodgings. From a ski dorm to rambling old inns to motels to the swank slopeside Grand Summit and Jordan Grand, plus 700 condominiums, there’s something for every family.
10. Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing. The Bethel Village Trails at the Bethel Inn Resort offer 25 miles of XC ski, snowshoe, and fat bike trails. Families like to ski to the historic Artists’ Covered Bridge. Carters X-C Ski Center in Bethel has 34 miles of trails with great views of Sunday River Resort and the Mahoosuc and Presidential Ranges.
11. Kids’ Night Out. At the River House in South Ridge on Saturdays and some holidays: pizza and movie night for kids ages 5-12. Mom and Dad can enjoy a nice evening out, whether they head to the Foggy Goggle for live music and a great selection of beers or into Bethel to explore the dining options. Snowtubing, lighted ice-skating, and fireworks at South Ridge on Thursdays and Saturdays are other kids’ entertainment options.
12. Dog-Friendly Options. The Bethel Inn and other hotels accept pooches, and you can cross-country ski and snowshoe on the Bethel Village Trails with them. There’s also day boarding right in town.
13. Don’t feel your family has to do it all. You will just have to come back.
Sunday River Stats
49 miles with 668 skiable acres
1 high-speed Chondola,
4 high-speed quads,
5 fixed quads, 3 triples,
1 double, and 2 surface lifts
Half- or full-day lessons with lunch for Mini Mogul Munchkins (ages 3-5), Mogul Munchkins (ages 6-7), and Mogul Meisters (ages 8-12). 90-minute group lessons are available at four levels for adult skiing and snowboarding (ages 13 and older).
Full-day ticket weekends and holidays, $105 (adult), $79 (teen 13-18), $69 (junior 6-12). Free for children 5 and under and adults 80 and over. Buy online in advance for significant savings. Sunday River is also on the IKON pass.
Where to Stay
The Bethel Inn Resort (21 Broad St., Bethel, 800-654-0125) is a classic century-old inn. Lodging is available in traditional inn rooms or townhomes. There’s a heated outdoor pool at the health club with a sauna, workout room, and spa services. Cross country and snowshoe trails. Millbrook Tavern has nightly dinner specials for affordable family dining. Winter season Superior Room rates start at $202 with breakfast. Two-bedroom townhomes are $395 with breakfast. bethelinn.com
The Grand Summit (www.sundayriver.com/resort-lodging/grand-summit-hotel) has standard hotel rooms or suites with full or mini kitchens. It also has an outdoor heated pool and hot tub, fitness center, Camp restaurant, ski check, game room, and free breakfast. The ski-and-stay holiday rate for a one-bedroom suite for two adults and two children starts at $670. The Jordan Hotel is similar; it is less crowded but more remote. SkiEsta is a luxury vacation rental home with an indoor pool, three hot tubs, 10 bedrooms, and 12 bathrooms; it sleeps 38. SkiEsta.com
Where to Eat
Brian’s (43 Main St., Bethel, 207-824-1007). Jessica and Brian Nichols refer to their menu as “elevated comfort food.” Everything is made from scratch using local ingredients. Meatloaf with whiskey peppercorn sauce and garlic mashed potatoes and seafood vongole are popular. Nine rotating taps feature many of Maine’s microbreweries, such as Funky Bow Beer. briansbethel.com
Suds Pub at the Sudbury Inn (151 Main St., Bethel, 207-824-6558). The varied menu includes pulled-pork sandwiches and chili cheese fries as well as such entrées as blackened salmon. thesudburyinn.com
22 Broad Street (22 Broad St., Bethel, 207-824-3469). Upscale Italian entrées in a cozy 1848 Greek Revival house run by Manhattanite John Amann (if possible, go when you know he is cooking that night). Bricciole, risotto del giorno, and chicken picatta are all good choices—plus there’s a martini bar. Reservations are recommended. 22broadstreet.com
Crossroads Diner (24 Mayville Rd., Bethel, 207-824-3673). Open seven days a week, 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Hearty breakfasts at reasonable prices. Try the huge plate-sized blueberry pancakes. crossroadsdiner.net