A Brave Ski Mom Interview with Natasha, a brave ski mom of three from Massachusetts.
If you could only ski at one resort this season with your family, which resort would you choose? Sunday River, Maine.
Why Sunday River?
Anyone who loves winter can have a great time at Sunday River. We loved it before we had kids, and I loved it before I was married. It is an expansive mountain with six peaks, with a great layout. The terrain is somewhat geared toward expert skiers, but anyone can get across the resort, skiing across the peaks.
There is an entire area dedicated to beginners with a terrain park and glade skiing. The lift lines are manageable, and usually very short once you’re past the parking lot.
What are the best amenities at Sunday River for family skiing?
My kids are 7, 5 and 3 and we’ve been teaching them to ski since they could walk. Sunday River has so many trails for learning. There are flat beginner areas. And when the kids are ready, you can take a quad chair for a longer run. It escalates from there as everyone improves.
Sunday River also has night skiing. This is one of the best things about the resort. We can ski from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The kids love it. We can maximize the entire day and the fun doesn’t have to end at 4:00 p.m. We love being in the gondola at night. And at the bottom of the mountain there are fire pits. We can ski up and roast marshmallows: Pop one in your mouth and keep skiing for a few more hours.
Do you have any secrets you’re willing to share?
March is the biggest snow month and it is also maple sugar time. Sunday River has a working sugar shack on the mountain, with sap drawn from buckets tapped into trees along the trails. The Sunday River Sugaring House is on a beginner trail and it is a log cabin where you can watch syrup being made and taste the cold sap. You can also buy maple sugar candy.
I also like the boundary-to-boundary skiing. This means anywhere within the boundary of resort is open. On a wonderful powder day, you can dip into the openings between the trees. If you see tracks going into the trees, follow them!
What needs to be improved at Sunday River to make it even better for family skiing?
Sunday River needs a NASTAR course!
That said, a couple of years ago, Boyne Resorts acquired Sunday River. Boyne Resorts added the New England camp theme, night skiing, and boundary-to-boundary skiing. They also added a chondola lift (six-pack chairs interspersed with 8 person gondola cabins) in a very congested part of the mountain. This has really helped alleviate long lift lines.
Parking can still be a nightmare, but otherwise, I can’t think of much that could be improved.
Any advice for families coming to Sunday River?
Buy a $94 Frequent skier card. The first ticket on the card is free and then each ticket after that is discounted. A single day lift ticket last season was $79, so if you go more than twice you save money.
My other advice is to make sure you look at a ski map and plan where you want to ski.
Where do you like to eat?
I like the Foggy Goggle, right at the SouthRidge base. Pejamajo’s is a creperie with two locations. It is great because you can ski up and get a crepe without taking off your skis. For a nice adult dinner, I’ve heard the North Peak lodge at the top of the chondola is lovely.
For a classic ski bar, I recommend Sud’s Pub.
And what about lodging?
We like to stay in one of the ski in/ski out hotels with an indoor/outdoor pool right on a ski trail. There are many places to stay along the wide expanse of the six peaks. Sunday River Central Reservations can help find the perfect location for any family at the right price.
The nearest town, Bethel, is also quaint and convenient. There is a bus, the Mountain Explorer, that takes guests to the mountain. That means you can stay in a bed and breakfast in Bethel, park your car and not get back in it for the entire weekend.
Another great amenity is the Snow Cap Youth Dormitory. I love the idea of the Dorm because it makes it possible for youth groups to ski at a lower cost.
What is your favorite memory of Sunday River?
That’s a tough one. My favorite kid-related memory is taking Lift One to the top of one of the highest peaks. My kids just jump off the lift ahead of us and suddenly we’re trying to keep up with them as they fly down Top Gun.
When did you start skiing?
I grew up skiing. But I didn’t go to big resorts until middle school. Then in college Sunday River offered free ski passes to Rhode Island residents. That convinced me to drive the extra 1/2 hour. They got me.
What is your favorite thing about family skiing?
Riding the lift together. We love talking about where we’ve just skied and where we are going next.
The Brave Ski Mom Adds….
As Natasha mentioned the Sunday River Frequent Skier Card is a great deal. For $94 you get one free ticket as well as discounted tickets ($25 midweek, $15 weekends) at Sunday River, Sugarloaf and Loon Mountain, as well as Big Sky, Montana and other western Boyne Resorts properties.
I’m ready to visit Sunday River for all the reasons Natasha mentioned, but especially for the maple syrup! Yum.
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