This ski season started early with a trip to SundayRiver Ski areas in Bethel, Maine on December 6, 7, and 8. There have been years in the past that I have started to go skiing that early and have had a bust with maybe 1 or 2 trails open. Actually, a few years back another trip to SundayRiver produces 1 run on the last day and we played a lot of pool. One time we went to JayPeak and there was one trail open which turned out to be a disaster and we ate and drank wine all weekend instead of ski. But not this time!
Although there was little snow on the ground the weather had been cold enough to make significant snow. The quality of snow today in so much better than in years past and there were at least 35 trails available to ski. Granted it was not the entire mountain but there was plenty to ski. Friday the temperatures were above freezing so the snow was soft and nice to ski. the next morning the temperature had dropped and we had machined groomed corduroy which lasted most of the day and that was because there were not to many skiers that day. Sunday was another thing the conditions were again great but all I could see was red! Santa Clauses were everywhere!
It was the 14th annual celebration to welcoming the winter with the arrival of 250 Santa Clauses on the slopes. This is an annual fundraiser put on by Sunday River for the Bethel Rotary Christmas for Children Program. The way it works is if you make a donation ($10 or more) and come to the mountain dressed in full Santa regalia ( that is red suit with white trim, beards, hats and belt) and you get to ski for free as well as get a return pass to ski Sunday River before Dec. 24th 2013. the rotary children’s program received a check for approximately $2500.00. It was quite a sight seeing all 250 Santa’s standing in the lift line and skiing (sort off together) in mass down the slope.
SundayRiver had another reason to celebrate and that was the opening of their latest trail on the mountain T72. Why T 72? That was the last trail number on their master plan that was determine many years ago. This trail has terrain features including a 500 foot long half pipe built into and onto the ground thus eliminating volumes of snow that have to be created in order to build the feature. The trail has gigantic jumps, 3 in succession that I saw skiers and boarder going off one after the other (sometimes too close to one after the other) not sure how someone doesn’t get hurt? There are other terrain features further down the slope and there is a lift that serves that area as well. Check out videos of T72 on youtube
Since we have been celebrating I cannot forget to mention the Bethel Inn Resort which is where I stayed while at skiing at Sunday River. It is a mere 6 miles from the ski area and even though there are plenty of beds at the mountain the option of staying in this historic inn, within the historic town of Bethel, is a good one.
The Inn is celebrating their 100th year of hospitality. It all started in 1913 as an “out-patient” facility of Dr. John Greorge Gehring, whose therapy include psychiatric treatment along with strenuous physical workload like tending the garden an building the golf course. Wealthy clientele came to the Inn to restore their bodies and psyches in the Maine mountain air. They came and stayed for 3 months at a time.
Now it is just an Inn and no work parties are organized. It has been restored and partially condoized with many year round vacation options for their visitors. For the winter season the amenities offered include 2 restaurants, a 35km cross country ski and snowshoe center, a health club with outdoor heated pool, spa services, ice skating and horse drawn sleigh rides.
The Millbrook Tavern and Grill on the lower level made me a Pittsburg cooked (beyond rare) burger just the way I like it. It was delicious. In the evening the tavern also offered drinks and music for your après ski indulgences.
For their 100th celebration they are even offering a centennial package for $100 includes accommodations, full breakfast and a four course dinner. There are also other offers fro a 2 night stay. Contact the Inn for more information.
Cartoon by Mike Roth / Photos provided by Sunday River