Sunday River Ski Resort’s eight interconnected mountain peaks are consistently covered by Legendary Sunday River snow. High-capacity quads and guaranteed snow on all of The River’s 870 acres of terrain make this a skier’s paradise.
With a ski season from Halloween into early May, The River is known for having the most reliable conditions in the East.
An Overview of Sunday River Ski Resort
Sunday River is the Disney World of New England skiing. Like a trip to Orlando’s theme parks, this Maine resort handles the crowds efficiently with friendly service and a guarantee of good snow conditions.
Throw in a couple of crazy mascots — Eddy the Yeti and his girlfriend, Betty the Yeti — and après-ski snow tubing, skating, and entertainment, and you have the whole winter package.
Fast Facts About Sunday River Ski Resort
Here’s a list of some facts about The River resort:
- Vertical drop of 2,340 feet
- 135 trails — 28 beginner, 52 intermediate, and 45 black diamond trails
- Six terrain parks and pipes
- 15 Lifts — one high-speed chondola, nine quads (four high-speed), two triples, one double, and two surface lifts
- 92% snowmaking coverage
Sunday River Ski Resort Base Lodges
Sunday River Ski Resort is sprawling. It consists of eight unique mountain areas and four different base areas all connected by efficient lifts. First, you must choose your base area, where to park, etc.
South Ridge Lodge
The South Ridge Lodge is a main hub with plenty of parking and all the services you will need. If you require rentals, plan to utilize its ski lesson programs, children’s ski camps, and daycare. On top of that, it’s home to the Foggy Goggle, a great après-ski spot with a view up the slopes.
Barker Lodge, the original base area, is a less encumbered base camp and is ideal for simply buying a ticket and jumping on the detachable quad. If you want quick access to intermediate and advanced trails, this is the best base for you.
The Barker Lodge has an on-mountain brewpub featuring a sunny deck with great views up Locke and Barker Mountains. The award-winning Barker Bar is a local favorite.
White Cap Lodge
For a minimalist base camp, choose White Cap Lodge. It offers access to all of the terrain types and has its own parking. Plus, it’s the home of Shipyard’s Brew Haus, an awesome family venue for casual dining, including burgers, pizza, microbrews, wine, and cocktails.
Located about midway up the mountain, Peak Lodge is the ideal spot for a morning warmup. The Food Court has some amazing cinnamon buns for breakfast, while The Mountain Room has a tasty lunch menu with imaginative small plates, craft brews, and cocktails.
Activities at Sunday River Ski Resort
There are plenty of activities at this Boyne ski resort. Along with traditional and cross-country skiing and snowboarding, you can enjoy snowshoeing, sno-go ski bikes, ice skating, twilight skiing, snow tubing, and dog sledding.
Also, there is family entertainment on the black diamond slopes and skiing on the Après Aglow winter trail. You can even go shopping in Sunday River boutiques, attend live music and party events, and watch fireworks over South Ridge Lodge. Plus, the Jordan Hotel has a spa where you can relax.
Activities in Nearby Bethel
In addition to all the things to do at Sunday River Ski Resort, there’s the quaint nearby town of Bethel to explore. At The Gem theatre, you can watch a show while eating homemade pizza, drinking craft beer, and more.
If you’re looking for an activity that’s different from outdoor winter sports, check out River Lanes for bowling, billiards, and arcade games. If you want a quieter, more relaxing experience, check out the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum, which has the biggest collection of lunar meteorites in the world.
Where to Eat at The River
In addition to the restaurants at the base lodges, there are several other places to eat around the Sunday River Ski Resort. Here are a couple of our favorites.
Located in one of the most incredible spots, the Jordan Hotel offers sweeping views of the western mountain peaks at The River. Here, Sliders is a fun slope-view restaurant and après-ski bar.
At South Ridge Lodge, Cho Sun is perfect when you’re in the mood for sushi or noodles. This Korean and Japanese cuisine restaurant makes delicious Bloody Marys as well.
Navigation Tips for Sunday River Ski Resort
With eight interconnecting mountain peaks across an 870-acre resort, it might seem complicated to navigate the area. Besides grabbing a map, here are some tips for moving around the mountains to maximize your skiing experience at Sunday River Ski Resort.
Check the snow report before you start skiing.
Sunday River snowmakers tend to make a nice layer of fresh powder on a few select trails each night. Seek a snow report or consult a knowledgeable Sunday River patroller or ambassador for the scoop.
Skiing this freshly made powder is like nothing else you have experienced in your skiing lifetime. They call it Sunday River Snow, and it deserves a name of its own, like talcum powder on a baby’s bottom. The gods intended snow to be this good!
Take a free shuttle.
During holiday weeks and on weekends, you can ride a free resort shuttle to your base lodge and then back to your car at the end of the day. You don’t have to park in close proximity to maximize your time at The River. There are always parking attendants and mountain hosts to provide assistance too.
Ski down to save time between mountain areas.
Words to the wise on how to ski The River — do not spend time traversing back and forth between mountain areas. All 15 lifts are extremely well placed, and the trails are designed with ideal fall lines and no runouts.
When you want to move across the resort, don’t push your way past the next lift pod. Ski to the base of it, ride up, and you will always be getting more good vertical. You can waste a lot of time and energy sliding horizontally when you could be capturing vertically.
This might sound like common sense, but many lemmings end up doing the “Sunday River shuffle” all weekend. Some of the traverses are slightly uphill, which is negative skiing and should be avoided at all costs.
Stop for lunch early.
By stopping for lunch early, you can ski while others wait in the cafeteria line. The Foggy Goggle at South Ridge Lodge serves pub fare — nachos, sandwiches, and chili — with a fantastic slope view.
Or if you crave sushi or an Asian noodle bowl (admittedly eclectic at a Maine ski resort), hit the Cho Sun bistro and hibachi bar.
Arrive as early as possible.
If you know anything about this sport, you know that the early bird gets the proverbial worm. In this case, you can get ahead of the crowds up the access road, the choice parking (which is in limited supply), quick service at the ticket concourse, and all the corduroy that you can carve.
Sunday River Ski Resort claims, “It’s not unusual for a Sunday River skier to get in 20 or more runs per day, even on weekends.” We can verify that is not marketing but the truth! On a sunny Saturday in February, we garnered over 30 runs.
The finest lift system in the East, indeed. Talk about getting your money’s worth. That’s a buck and a half per run! But, you should have a plan and a trail map in your pocket to accomplish such a knee-weary day.
A Day on the Slopes at Sunday River
Since there are so many slopes at Sunday River Ski Resort, we’ve put together a suggested order to maximize your vertical time and avoid crowds. However, you can always choose your own routes.
Start at Spruce Peak
Out of the South Ridge Lodge, get on the chondola to the Spruce Peak triple. It’s a great warm-up run on the long, sweeping descent of American Express to Overdraft and past Peak Lodge.
From there, you can choose between the blue Paradigm slope or double black diamond alternative Quantum Leap, both of which offer great glimpses of Aurora Peak as you ski down to the quad.
Use some caution in the South Ridge base area because this is the learning area, which has a confusing network of green trails scattered with beginners and ski school classes, as well as more advanced skiers zooming to their destinations.
Dabble at Aurora Peak
At the top of Aurora Peak, you will discover some of the best advanced-intermediate slopes around. Northern Lights to Firestar is a great run to arrive at the base of the very popular Jordan Bowl.
As this speedy quad comes in for a landing, be ready for an eyeful of the majestic Mt. Washington to the southeast and sister Sugarloaf Mountain to the north.
Explore Jordan Bowl
While you are on Jordan Bowl, ski all the greats. Lollapalooza is one of the longest, prettiest runs, featuring 1.5 miles of mellow cruising and awesome views. Rogue Angel and Excalibur are both rolling fun trails, impeccably groomed as a rule, as is most of Sunday River.
iCaramba! brings back the classic, narrow, bumped-up, under-the-lift challenge for exhibitionists with elastic knees. For the tree-hugger, Blind Ambition is a fun and gentle glade with plenty of wide-open spaces to maneuver. Then, move on to Wizard’s Gulch for wilder glades.
Once you have “done the bowl,” travel to OZ. It’s interesting to note that, atop OZ, you are at the highest Sunday River elevation of 3,140 feet. This trail network is a return to classic New England skiing.
Emerald City and Lost Princess are dotted with birch groves, while tree lovers should try the double black diamond glades of Flying Monkey. Ruby Palace is a true lift line trail for the hard-core skier.
Looking for open space? Try Eureka between all this wild glade action. No, Dorothy. You are not in Kansas anymore, unless you opt for the traverse out of here that is so named and accessed from Cowardly Lion.
Kansas is one of those flat trails previously mentioned, so take a little speed, and you will still have a nice run ahead down Northern Lights or Airglow to take you back onto Aurora Peak.
Explore More of Aurora Peak
Now that you have experienced the popular Jordan Bowl and OZ, you are well ahead of the crowds and have time to explore Aurora Peak some more. Take an exhilarating trip down Vortex, which is often bumped up with quite a pitch.
Lights Out is the exit ramp from this basin, but I recommend another great run like Airglow, which has a serious grade. If you crave more steeps, bear right onto Black Hole, which some argue is the steepest section across all of Sunday River.
A pretty slip through the woods on Celestial Glade will round out your Aurora Peak experience before you ride up the Quantum Leap triple and bid farewell to this peak. No tears, please. There is plenty more great skiing in store for you.
Move to North Peak
From atop North Peak, take a long, gentle cruiser down Dream Maker, or strut your stuff on 3D and the Simon Dumont-designed terrain park T72. Ride the North Peak triple, and you may find yourself smelling the barbecue on the sunny deck at Peak Lodge.
By this time, your run count may be up to 15, so it’s a good time to stop for lunch.
Start With Barker Mountain After Lunch
This original site of Barker Mountain Ski Area and Viking Village is now serviced by a detachable quad, which launches you across a snowmaking water pond. If you are wondering, yes, a handful of skiers plunge to their wetness here every year.
There is much exciting terrain to carve on Barker, including the usually groomed black diamond Right Stuff, the double black diamond Top Gun (often groomed), and the double diamond, never groomed, lift line Agony (the name says it all).
Last Tango is acclaimed to be the biggest, widest glade trail at Sunday River Ski Resort. It gets tighter if you hang in there, but you can always bail onto Right Stuff.
Venture Over to Locke Mountain
You should also ride the Locke Mountain triple. Originating from the same base as the Barker quad, it gets you to another grand vista.
After a great cruiser down the wide-open Sunday Punch, try T2 or Bim’s Whim for a fun little excursion down to Snowbound, which takes you to the legendary White Heat area on White Cap.
Those little ski areas in the distance are Mount Abram and Shawnee Peak. It’s tough to ski 20 new and different trails in a day there!
Explore White Cap
Still acclaimed to be the “longest, steepest, widest, lift-serviced trail in the East,” riding up the lift and watching skiers bash the bumps on White Heat is often more fun than skiing down.
White Heat has a nearly 70% pitch that is threatening and constant. We chose the groomed half of the trail and watched others explode in the enormous bumps.
Another super steep challenge awaits you on Shockwave, the farthest east trail at Sunday River. It’s another true double black diamond. For some gnarly glades, try Hardball or Chutzpah, which was selected as one of the 10 most extreme runs in the East by Skiing magazine.
Obsession has an action-packed blend of steeps and compressions, while Salvation is to the right. Both are better options for the timid.
If you take a left off the lift, you are in No Fall Terrain, and this is no joke. If you fall here, the ensuing slide can have disastrous results on terrain this steep. You will notice how the ski patrol hangs out at the tops of these slopes. A coincidence? I think not.
End at the Base of the Tempest Lift
You have now skied eight mountain peaks across 3 miles from east to west. When you are weary from White Cap, head for Heats Off to Tempest under the quad. It is fun to watch the snowboarders in their element at the competition-grade halfpipe near the base of the Tempest lift.
Keep Skiing If You Want
If you are up for some mellow cruising, point down Moonstruck or Starburst, and you will wish you were staying at the Grand Summit Hotel. You could be home now, soaking in that slopeside heated pool. For more adventure, take the Tempest quad to Wildfire or Cascade back to Barker Mountain.
Or, perhaps you want to end on a lazy note. The Three Mile Trail is a less-than-vertical experience from the top of Barker Mountain to sauntering Dream Maker past Peak Lodge and all the way back to South Ridge Lodge.
Hot Ski Trail Picks Featured By Difficulty
Long, Mellow Cruisers
- Dream Maker
Top Fun & Friendly Intermediate Runs
- American Express
- Sunday Punch
- Rogue Angel
Great Steeps (often groomed)
- Airglow to Black Hole
- White Heat
Wild Bumps & Gnar
- Blind Ambition is mellow
- Hollywood and Last Tango ramp up the challenge
- Chutzpah and Hard Ball are hardcore
Plan Your Sunday River Ski Resort Adventure
There is a great day in a nutshell. These are not steadfast rules — just one way to get maximum vertical and maximum fun from your ski day.
There are some great runs that will have you thinking, “I could ski that all day.” But, around the next corner and up the next quad is yet another assortment of exceptional terrain. Forrest Gump would find Sunday River is like a box of chocolates. Get to know the mountain, and have at it!