Sunday River

Guide to Exploring the Sunday River Ski Resort Area

Sunday River’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 often from Halloween into early May, The River is known for having the most reliable conditions in the East.

For lunch on the mountain try the North Peak Lodge – Mountain Room, Sliders in the Grand Jordan, The Foggy Goggle at the base of South Ridge or The Brewhaus at the base of White Cap. There are plenty of activities like ziplining, lots of ski in ski out condo and hotel lodging, plus the quaint nearby town of Bethel, at this Boyne ski resort, sister to Sugarloaf.

Sunday River

Vertical Drop: 2,340’. 135 Trails: 28 Beginner, 52 Intermediate, 45 Black Diamond. 6 Terrain Parks and Pipes. 15 Lifts: 1 High Speed Chondola, 9 Quads (4 high speed), 2 Triples, 1 Double, 2 Surface Lifts. 92% Snowmaking

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 –  you have the whole winter package.  

Here are some tips to moving around the mountains to maximize your skiing experience at Sunday River:

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. If you require rentals, plan to utilize ski lesson programs, children’s ski camps or daycare you need to head to South Ridge Base Area. This is the main hub, plenty of parking, all the services you will need, even the Foggy Goggle (a great après ski spot with a view up the slopes). Barker Mountain, the original base area, is a less encumbered camp ideal for simply buying a ticket and jumping on the detach quad. The Barker Lodge has an on mountain brew pub featuring a sunny deck with great views up Locke and Barker Mountains. Last but not least, you may choose Jordan Peak Base Area. This is home to Sliders, yet another fun slope-view restaurant and après-ski bar.

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 line and no run outs. 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 vertical. I know this sounds like common sense, but we spoke to and watched many lemmings all weekend doing the “Sunday River shuffle”. Some of the traverses are slightly uphill, that is negative skiing, which should be avoided at all costs.

Sunday River

If you know anything about this sport, you know 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 you get all the corduroy you can carve. Sunday River claims “It’s not unusual for a Sunday River skier to get in 20 or more runs per day, even on weekends.” I am here to verify that is not marketing, but 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 a run! But you should have a plan and a trail map in your pocket to accomplish such a knee weary day.

Here is one approach to maximize vertical and avoid crowds. Out of the South Ridge base area get on the Chondola to the Spruce Peak triple. A great warm up run on the long, sweeping descent of American Express to Overdraft past the North Peak Lodge delivers you to a choice between blue square Paradigm or Quantum Leap, the black diamond alternative, offering great glimpses of Jordan Bowl and Aurora Peak, as you ski down to the Aurora Peak quad. At the top of Aurora you will discover some of the best advanced-intermediate stuff around. Northern Lights to Firestar is a great run to arrive at the very popular Jordan Bowl. As this speedy quad comes in for a landing at the summit be ready for an eyeful of the majestic Mt. Washington to the Southeast and sister Sugarloaf to the North!

While you are in 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 the 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. Interesting to note that atop OZ you are at the highest Sunday River elevation of 3,140′. 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 double black diamond glades called Flying Monkeys. Ruby Palace is a true lift line trail for the hard-core.

Sunday River

Looking for open space? Try Eureka, located in 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 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 into the Aurora Peak Basin.

Now you have experienced the popular Jordan Bowl and OZ, and you are well ahead of the crowds. Time to explore Aurora Peak some more. Take an exhilarating trip down Vortex, which is often bumped up, with quite a pitch, I might add. 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 on all of Sunday River.

A pretty slip through the woods on Celestial Glade will round out your Aurora experience before you ride up the Quantum Leap triple and bid farewell to Aurora & Jordan Bowl. No tears please, there is plenty more great skiing in store for you. From atop North Peak, take a long, gentle cruiser down Dream Maker or strut your stuff on 3-D 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 North Peak Lodge. Run count by lunch may be as many as 15. A “legal day” already.

Another old skiing proverb, lunch early, so you may ski while others wait in cafeteria line. The Foggy Goggle at South Ridge Base lodge serves pub fare like 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.

Sunday River

The Barker quad is a great destination during the traditional noon lunch hour. 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 black diamond and usually groomed Right Stuff and double black diamond Top Gun (often groomed) and double diamond, never groomed, lift line Agony (the name says it all). Last Tango is acclaimed to be the biggest, widest glade trail here, it gets tighter if you hang in there, but you can always bail on to Right Stuff.

You should also ride the Locke Mountain triple, originating from the same base as the Barker quad, it gets you to another grand vista. “Those little ski areas in the distance are Mount Abram and Shawnee Peak. Tough to ski 20 new & different trails in a day there!” After a great cruiser down the wide-open Sunday Punch, try T2 or Bim’s Whim for a fun little excursion down to Snowbound and you are finally at the legendary White Heat area.

Still acclaimed to be the “longest, steepest, widest, lift-serviced trail in the East”, riding up the lift watching skiers bash the bumps is often more fun than skiing down. If you take a left off the lift, you are in NFT, No Fall Terrain, and this is no joke. A fall here and the ensuing slide can have disastrous results on terrain this steep. You will notice how the Ski Patrol hang out at the top of these slopes. A coincidence? I think not. Obsession has an action packed blend of steeps and compressions or Salvation to skier’s right, both are better choices for the timid.

Sunday River

White Heat has a nearly 70% pitch that is threatening and constant. I chose the groomed half of the trail, while my husband explodes in the enormous bumps. Another super steep challenge awaits you on Shockwave, the farthest east trail at Sunday River, this is 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.

You have now skied 8 mountain peaks across 3 miles from West to East. 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, the competition-grade half-pipe near the base of the Tempest lift.

Great ski to lunch spots inlcude The Mountain Room at North Peak Lodge -for a beautiful Bloody Mary and charcuterie board, or The Shipyard Brewpub at the White Cap base area –  for a micro brew, burger and table service. If you are up for some mellow cruising, point them down Moonstruck or Starburst and you will wish you were staying at the 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.

It may be time for a cold one at Barker’s Brew Pub deck. 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 the North Peak Lodge all the way back to the South Ridge base. Use some caution in the South Ridge base area, as this is the learning area, a confusing network of green trails scattered with beginners and ski school classes and more advanced skiers zooming to their destinations.

Sunday River

An important note: 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.

There is a great day in a nutshell. These are not steadfast rules, just one skier’s 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.

Hot Trail Picks featured by Difficulty

Long, Mellow Cruisers:
Dream Maker

Fun and Friendly Intermediate Runs:
Too many to name, 3 of my personal favorites:
American Express
Sunday Punch
Rogue Angel

Great Steeps (often groomed):
Airglow to Black Hole
White Heat

Wild Bumps and Gnar:

Blind Ambition is mellow
Hollywood and Last Tango ramp up the challenge
Chutzpah and Hard Ball are hard core

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