Author: Ron Bozman
Tags : Christmas Holiday, Maine, North America, Snowsports, Spring Break, Teens, USA, Winter Getaway
Our family was thrilled at the quality of the ski experience we found at Sunday River in Maine. A favorite of New England skiers and an easy reach from Portland (1.5 hours) Boston (3.5 hours), Sunday River is, arguably, one of the best ski mountains in the Northeast .
Good Snow, Good Grooming, Nice Runs at Sunday River
Starting with the mountain -- eight peaks spanning three miles, 135 trails (and glades), 2,340 feet of vertical, 16 lifts, lots of snowmaking capability over 820 skiable acres -- you’ve got a lot to work with, a lot to experience. New for the 2013-2014 New England season, Sunday River has become second in size only to her sister resort, Sugarloaf, with the addition of the T72 terrain park trail, five new gladed areas and some extended runs.
The trails are a fine mixture of blues and blacks, tougher when left ungroomed, with a tasty mixture of gently rolling greens traversing the inclines. The beginner area is at the main base at South Peak Lodge, but after a lesson or two novices can take the “chondola” – an enclosed gondola cabin alternates with open-air quad seats on the same lift – to mid-mountain and ski slowly down from there.
In this video, you can hear from my clan what everyone's favorite run is at Sunday River:
We ski solidly in the blue zone and found a very satisfying, even exciting array of challenging trails with surprisingly long vertical drops. Although our boys immediately peeled off for the steep blacks and moguls, we found it fun to work our way across the peaks in the morning (our hotel was at the easternmost Jordan Peak) and back again in the afternoon. And the views across the White Mountains, with Mt. Washington looming above all, are nothing if not stunning.
The snowmaking team tends to 1900 snowguns, a number of them recently purchased for their energy and water use efficiency. The grooming was first rate, making those New England crusty first morning runs a total delight. The night skiing is surprisingly good if you have the energy to get back out on the slopes after dinner. Even in the late morning on a spring break Saturday, lift lines were rarely more than a few minutes so the trail quality remains good all day long.
Sunday River's Ski School & Kds Programs
This mountain has many Perfect Kids learning programs, starting with Tiny Turns for 3-year-olds and ranging from private to group clinics for ages 3-16. For young skiers, the Mogul Munchkins (ages 3-6) is the best group; for skiing and riding group classes, ages 7-14 at any level are enrolled in the Mogul Meisters. Discounted lift tickets and $10 rental rates make teaching the kids very affordable. Parents of shredders will appreciate the mountain's snow-made rollers, berms, and fun features in its beginner Who-Ville terrain park located in the South Ridge base area.
Regulars enroll in the Gould Academy Competition Programs for ages 7-18, so you know there are plenty of top notch instructors. There are also seasonal classes for high level juniors; see the Perfect Kids page for more details.
To add to the fun, the resort's mascot Eddy the Yeti visit the slopes in the Enchanted Forest glade on North Peak and occasionally take the to chairlifts.
Sunday River Has Big Resort Amenities & Two Lodges
The infrastructure is first-rate, as well. The base lodge is modern and comfortable and the food service well above average for Northeast ski resorts. The staff is friendly and capable, regardless of their role throughout the resort.
There are two major lodges, one at each end of the mountain, with timeshare units that rent overnight like hotel rooms. Our stay at the Jordan Grand Resort Hotel could not have been better. The spacious two-bedroom condo with a balcony looked out to the mountain and down on the large, heated pool below, flanked by two hot tubs. The fully stocked kitchen was perfect for the breakfasts, snacks and dinners we cooked.
We treated ourselves to a great meal at the in-house Sliders Restaurant. Sliders serves an excellent slopeside lunch for those skiing the far right trails, and a dinner of locally sourced ingredients. For après ski and late night there is a fine array of New England micro-brews. At the other end of the mountain, the Grand Summit Resort, almost a twin of the Jordan Grand, is a slightly smaller version with similar services. Both are ski-in, ski-out convenience with terrific midweek deals that include lift tickets and extra perks.
There are rentable condo clusters tucked into the woods across the range, with ski-in/ski-out access. For groups, there is also a Youth Ski Dormitory, with bunk-style bedding in four- or eight-person rooms. A free shuttle serves all lodging, so you can depend on easy access to the main lifts.
The icing on the cake includes a tubing run, ice skating rink, mountain ziplines and weekend night skiing. Each of the major lodges has a child care center for supervised, apres ski activities, and nightly programs during the holiday seasons.