Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock/Susan Borsch

Families will love:

  • More than 130 trails
  • Reliably snowy conditions
  • Lots of family-friendly activities

In a word, Sunday River is about one thing: Snow. It's got it -- and often more of it, and sooner, than any other mountain in the East. Part of that powdery distinction has to do with the resort's location in the wild, far northern Maine's wild Western Lakes & Mountains region. But mostly, it has to do with the snow-making equipment that Sunday River invested in heavily ... more
In a word, Sunday River is about one thing: Snow. It's got it -- and often more of it, and sooner, than any other mountain in the East. Part of that powdery distinction has to do with the resort's location in the wild, far northern Maine's wild Western Lakes & Mountains region. But mostly, it has to do with the snow-making equipment that Sunday River invested in heavily since its earliest days. Opened in 1959, Sunday River was put on the map in the 1970s by legendary ski resort developer Les Otten, who doubled down on snow making as the key to the resort's success. Now, Sunday River has more snow-making equipment than any other mountain east of the Mississippi, with some 1900 guns ranged along 8 different peaks, 350 of which can blast out the white stuff at any one time.

Because of their expertise in snow making, Sunday River has for years been a reliable choice for the first mountain to open in the Northeast -- and sometimes the country. For the past five years, it has opened for business on or before Halloween, with the season extending into mid-April. That distinction makes it a perfect choice for families looking to pre-book skiing over the holidays, when the mountain is often running full-blast on several lifts when neighboring resorts are left praying to the snow gods.

Of course, all the snow in the world is no good without the terrain to put it on, and here Sunday River delivers. The mountain's eight peaks feature 132 trails, spread out over three miles from White Cap to the Jordan Bowl. While the advanced trails may not measure up to the most challenging in the East, there are more than enough black-diamonds to keep all but the most advanced skiers happy, and intermediates and beginners have a huge selection of blues and greens, many accessible from its two grand hotels and hundreds of ski-on/ski-off condos.

The convenience of slope-side lodging is a big plus for Sunday River -- but the resort offers the best of both worlds in its location a few minutes drive from the town of Bethel, an honest-to-goodness quaint New England village. The town is full of white-spire churches and cutesy independent boutiques and restaurants (to say nothing of a few notorious apres-ski bars) giving families the feeling that they are truly vacationing in back-country New England, not some soulless ski resort.

That combination of mega ski resort and authentic New England countryside has made Sunday River a winning formula for families for decades, and by all accounts the resort is only getting better. In 2007, Sunday River was acquired by the Boyne Resorts (which also owns neighboring Sugarloaf and New Hampshire's Loon Mountain), which promptly pumped some $30 million into improvements. The property installed its first chondula (part chair lift -- part gondola) and replaced all 16 lifts; created a four-season zip line course, renovated its hotels, and, of course, added even more snow-making equipment to ensure that Sunday River's reputation as the snowiest ski area in the East won't soon be beat.

Written by Michael Blanding less

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