1 pointIntroduction Depending on how you measure, Sunday River is one of the largest ski areas in New England. The ski is built along a ridge line with eight distinct peaks. As a result the area is laterally expansive, although vertically rather diminutive on any given peak. They will advertise a vertical drop of 2,340 ft, but the reality is that most peaks have a vertical drop of 1,500 ft or less, with only White Cap being greater at 1,630 ft vertical drop. Length of Season Sunday River prides itself on having one of the longest seasons in the East. It will open as soon as it can in the fall, usually in late October, and pushes aggressively to expand terrain as the weather allows. In the spring its target closing date is May 1. Base Areas and Parking At the eastern most end of the ridge, the White Cap lodge is the base of the tallest and steepest trails at Sunday River. The mountain's signature trail, White Heat, is located here. The Grand Summit Hotel is at this base, as is the easiest parking on the mountain. It is our recommended base area, but be warned the lodge is very dated. Tickets are sold in the ski shop downstairs. The Barker Lodge is the oldest (though recently remodeled), and the base of operations early and late season. During the mid season it is also the most crowded base area and should be avoided. The surrounding Locke, Barker, and Spruce peaks are the location of the most popular (crowded) intermediate terrain on the mountain. South Ridge is the base for the vast majority of the mountain's beginner terrain which is accessed off of North Peak. This base area can get very crowded, especially in the lodge. Despite the crowds, this is your best bet for beginners. It is also the base lodge you'll need to use for night skiing. Trail Recommendations Beginner The South Ridge area is the beginner area at Sunday River. The South Ridge HSQ is one of the best beginner lifts in the east. It services about 500 vertical of consistently pitched, but very gentle terrain. The lift does not usually have much of a line either when the North Peak Express and Chondola are also open. Little White Cap, by the Grand Summit Hotel, is a less known and less traveled beginner area. This 600' vertical area is serviced by a sheltered fixed grip quad. Take your beginner or low-intermediate skier or rider to this area on the busiest Saturdays and find the slopes empty and no line at the lift. The easiest route is the Green Cheese-Lower Moonstruck. Take a right off the lift and cut back under the lift immediately. The two blue trails off the lift, Upper Moonstruck and Starlight, are generously rated blues. A confident beginner should be able to handle these groomed trails as well. Lastly the Lollapalooza trail is another option. Be warned that this trail has narrow sections, sharp turns, can be crowded, and is a challenge to get to from the rest of the resort. I'd only check it out if you're REALLY bored with the other beginner terrain. Intermediate Intermediate terrain one area in which Sunday River excels. The mountain prides itself on its grooming and snowmaking, and thus the snow quality on its intermediate cruising terrain is usually superb. Since the resort is so spread out, except for a few very popular intermediate trails, much of the terrain is not overly crowded or skied off by 10:00 AM like other resorts. The intermediate skier has a variety of terrain available too as some trails are winding and rolling (Northern Lights) while others are your traditional wide-open blue boulevard from the 1980s and 1990s (American Express). The intermediate terrain is roughly isolated into 3 or 4 trail 'pods,' Jordan, Aurora, Spruce/North Peak, and Barker Mountain. Jordan Jordan has 3 groomed intermediate trail options, Lollapalooza, Rogue Angel, and Excalibur. Moderately pitched with some rolls and knolls, the mountain usually tries to get this terrain open in time for the Christmas Holidays. These trails are some of the longest on the mountain, but can see crowds, especially on Saturdays. Excalibur is the favorite cruiser of many locals. Aurora Aurora Basin has only 1 real intermediate trail, Northern Lights, but it is one of the resort's best. This trail usually opens around Thanksgiving and offers a consistent yet interesting rolling pitch winding down into the basin. Airglow, a black diamond next to Northern Lights is not terribly challenging either. Spruce Spruce Peak has some of the most popular intermediate cruising terrain for the resort. American Express and Risky Business are wide open, groomed boulevards similar to trail options at Bretton Woods. Despite being heavily trafficked, Spruce usually doesn't have much of a line and the runs are wide enough that any crowds are not unbearable. The tops of these trails can get wind swept though, so on windy days they are often icy up top. North Peak On North Peak, the Dream Maker, Escapade, and Grand Rapids trails are all nicely pitched and always groomed. The North Peak Express usually does not have a bad line too, despite being in the center of the resort. Try out the 3D trail for some excellent bumps and the woods on the skier's left of Escapade are great starter gladed trails. Barker Lastly Barker Mountain has a plethora of groomed blue trails. However, this area is the most crowded with the longest lift lines to boot. The Lazy River trail, though marked blue has some long flat sections that can be frustrating for a snowboarder, but your beginner intermediate skier will love its winding turns and stunning views. The other options from Barker are reached either by the Ectasy trail or Jungle Road, a traverse trail towards Locke Mountain. All the blues by Locke are wide open with a steady pitch. Sunday Punch is one of the first trails to open every year. It is narrower and winding up top opening into a wider section crossing by the Locke Midstation and under Barker. Looking at Barker Mountain from Escapade on North Peak: Advanced The River has a good variety of both groomed and ungroomed advanced options. There are advanced trail options off of every peak at the resort, which makes skiing with an intermediate or beginner skier/rider even easier as you can meet at the bottom of the lift. White Cap Starting at the Eastern Edge of the resort, White Cap has it all with its 3 trails and additional glades. Shockwave features snowmaking, but is always left ungroomed except for a few rare times a year. This trail has steep drops as it winds around the mountain. It shines brightest in the spring season often softening early in the day with a more eastern aspect. White Heat is the mountain's signature expert trail. Straight down the fall line White Heat is wide, straight, and groomed. Obsession, though not as steep as White Heat, is winding and a whole lot of fun. It is the favorite groomed trail of many regulars. Lastly in the White Cap area is Tempest, a steep, straight, groomed black that leads to the White Cap lodge. Jibe is a blue that runs next to Tempest, but is often ungroomed providing a more interesting option down to the base. Locke/Barker Locke Mountain features narrower advanced trails that are often very uncrowded at the top because the triple is so slow. Bim's Wim, Upper Cut, Locke Line, and Jim's Wim are all uncrowded, mostly ungroomed, and great fun. The long triple ride is worth it to ski these trails in their entirety, in my opinion, especially when everywhere else is jammed. If Bim's Wim and T2 are open and groomed, you can often find corduroy on these trails even in the afternoon because their see such low traffic. Barker Mountain allows access to most of the advanced trails on Locke and other advanced trails. Right Stuff is a standard groomed black with a fun pitch. Top Gun is another snowmaking trail left to bump up. It also shines in the spring as a mogul paradise. Agony runs right under the lift and is the most difficult option off Barker, but not horribly steep or difficult, even by Sunday River terms. Be warned that Agony can get really icy due to the way the wind often strikes this trail. Spruce Spruce, in addition to its blue cruising terrain, has a few nice ungroomed trails too. Downdraft is a great mogul run that holds snow well. Gnarnia, a new (to the map) trail added a few years ago, is one of the tougher trails at the resort featuring a small optional cliff in the upper half of the trail above the 3 mile trail and a steep, tight lower section under the lift that eventually leads into the Last Tango Glade. Hit it on a powder day. North Peak Off North Peak there are two more ungroomed advanced trails. Northern Exposure and Quantum Leap are often closed, but are great fun on a powder day or warmer day when they are open. Quantum Leap is a favorite in the springtime, but it tends to close earlier than most trails. Watch for ice on midwinter days too! Aurora The Aurora Basin features Airglow, another regular groomed black and Vortex, a sometimes groomed sometimes ungroomed double black. Vortex is one of the steeper trails on the mountain and runs right down the fall line. This trail can also be icy, but holds snow better than Quantum Leap. The Black Hole trail is a short, groomed, alternative way down near the end of the Airglow trail. Looking up Black Hole from the Aurora lift: Oz Oz features a unique skiing experience, but not in a great way in the opinion of some. Oz has a variety of semi-gladed terrain and the pitches of the trails are some of the best on the mountain, but the glading work leaves something to be desired. As you move closer to the lift (coming from Aurora), the trails become more and more open and a little easier. Many of these trails, such as the Lost Princess actually even feature snowmaking (and occasional grooming) so they reliably open in January, but also can be icy because of this. Ski these trails when they are good, but avoid them on boilerplate days after a thaw/freeze even more than the natural trails because of this. The newer glades like Poppy Fields on the eastern edge of Oz (by Aurora) are better, in my opinion. Tree Skiing/Gladed Terrain Almost every peak at the River has glades cut somewhere (on map and off). The most difficult tree skiing is located at the ends of the resort on White Cap and Jordan/Oz. The White Cap glades are a fun experience as the trees and shrubs are a little shrunken towards the top. Be warned though, the beginning of these glades are essentially a giant rock, so make sure snow cover is good! There are easier glades that are not steep off Little White Cap too. These are tight, but can be a good introductory glade. The trees off Locke/Barker/Spruce are fairly traditional New England glade skiing with numerous tight lines, river beds, and variety. Anywhere that looks like an opening to some trees usually is in this area of the resort. Ask a local to show you around! Make sure that you do not accidentally head off the backside of the resort though, as you will have a tough slog to get back. The gladed terrain off Aurora is a little more open than the Locke and Barker trails, but still has a classic New England feel. Look in between Vortex and the lift in gully type mountain features for some fun lines. The easiest glades on the mountain are on North Peak. The Enchanted forest is wide open and even has a little hut belonging to "Eddie the Yeti" in the middle. It is fun to take kids in there and explore. The other side of the North Peak Express has the North Woods with an entrance skier's right of the entrance to 3D. This glade is a little narrower and more difficult than the Enchanted forest, but doesn't see a ton of traffic despite its central location. The lower half of this glade is also one of the first to open every year too. Enchanted Forsest and the lower portion of North Woods in early January 2017: Lastly Oz and Jordan contain more open glades. The mountain went a little cutting crazy in parts of Oz, but the Flying Monkey and Poppy Field glades are excellently spaced and Blind Ambition and Wizard's Gulch off Jordan are huge and long. Again in this area of the resort, ask a local to show you around to where some of the best lines are. Be careful not to accidentally leave the resort boundary if you explore here though! Night Skiing Night skiing at the resort is limited, but a nice bonus if you want to truly maximize your on hill time. Only the Chondola and South Ridge Express run for night operations, but access most of the terrain on North Peak and South Ridge. Escapade is the only real intermediate or higher difficulty trail accessible during this time. Lifts Most lifts are fixed grip, but none have terribly long ride times. The longest lift, Spruce, has a conveyor belt to shorten the ride to under 10 minutes. The high speed lifts at the resort usually feature longer lines, especially Barker and Jordan, so riding the fixed grips usually results in more skiing. Because the resort is so long east-west, individual lifts are rarely crowded. When there are crowds, the bottom line is skip everything off of Barker and South Ridge Lodges. Head for Oz and Jordan Bowl or White Cap. Be warned that Jordan, being a high speed lift, often accumulates a large line, especially around lunch due to hotel traffic. Aurora will have a line most Saturday and Sunday mornings, but clears out. White Cap is always empty, but trail options are more limited over here and you have to take Barker to reach anything else. Dining and Drinking -- On Mountain and Off Breakfast Lunch Avoid the Peak Lodge. It's very popular which means too busy. There is a nice restaurant called Sliders in the Jordan Hotel Cinnamon rolls at Sunday River are semi-famous. Sold in Barker and the Peak Lodge, get them when they are fresh! Apres The Foggy Goggle at South Ridge is packed. If that's your scene head over. The bar at the Barker Lodge often has a lively apres crowd. Off-mountain on the access road, the Matterhorn is the place to go. Dinner Late Night Matterhorn. Period. Annual Special Events Lift tickets are free if you wear a costume on Halloween! Keep an eye out for registration for their annual Santa Sunday in December. If you wear a Santa suit and donate to charity, you'll receive a free morning ticket to join the other Santas for a ski run down the mountain. In addition, you'll receive another lift ticket voucher to return another day. For their last day of the season, they offer free lift tickets on May 1 for Ski Maynia. Local Ski Shops There are a number of ski shops on the access road up to the mountain. Check out Sport Thoma in Bethel. Where to Stay Lift Tickets Sunday River lift tickets are the most expensive in Maine, and very difficult to find on discount. Expect $79 Monday - Thursday, and $99 Friday - Sunday. While most ski areas offer discounts if you look around, these guys don't play ball. For more information: http://www.sundayriver.com/ All registered users can edit our mountain guides. Add your suggestions! First hand report and photos by Jim Kenney: I visited Sunday River for two days in March 2012. Often March midweek skiing in New England can be like a ghost town. I was surprised at how active Sunday River was - in a good way. We were there for my son's two day PSIA skiing exam along with dozens of other aspiring instructors including extreme skiing pioneer Glen Plake. There was also a large contingent of vacationing Canadian families on school break, but the real excitement was provided by the hundreds of college students representing 80 schools competing in the 34th annual U. S. Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association National Championship. Sunday River had built a tremendous array of venues/courses for the different competitive disciplines including boardercross. Despite all the activity at no time during our midweek visit did we wait in any significant lift lines. 2012 U. S. Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association National Championship boardercross course at Sunday River: We started at White Cap Lodge on the far eastern edge of the trail layout and skied White Heat as a steep first run. We gradually made our way towards the mid-mountain North Peak Lodge and found some nicely groomed intermediate cruising on Risky Business and American Express trails off Spruce Peak (~1500' vertical). We also sampled a challenging bump run called I Caramba under the Jordan express chair (~1500' vertical). On our second day temperatures moderated greatly to about 50 sunny degrees and we found softer surfaces. My son was busy much of the day with instructor exams. I went free skiing in the Oz trail pod and followed (before they left me in the dust) some hot college racers through a pretty glade called Flying Monkey. Nearby the warm sun made two huge open glades called Tin Woodsman and Eureka soft and fun to ski. Mount Washington is only about 25 miles as the crow flies from Sunday River and I stopped to enjoy some beautiful views of New Hampshire’s Presidential range from the observation tower atop Jordan Peak. Flying Monkey Glade at Sunday River: We stayed two nights in Bethel, ME at the Norseman Inn for about $80 per night (2012 prices). It’s three miles from Sunday River and the room was very clean and included a microwave and minifridge. Sunday River has an excellent variety of terrain for all skill levels including challenging bump runs with sustained verticals in the 1300-1500' range, expert level glades, and tons of groomed intermediate runs. It’s large enough and with reliable snow conditions for a one-stop, multiday ski destination. There is considerable lodging, dining and service infrastructure at the mountain and in nearby Bethel, including affordable package deals that make it attractive to groups and vacationers. We got a good deal one night on pizza at the very atmospheric Matterhorn Ski Bar less than a mile from the slopes. Sunday River has reasonable proximity to Boston (~3 hours) and a seasonal calendar packed with fun events.
1 pointIntroduction Jay Peak has been in the news a lot lately. It the center of a controversial EB-5 investment program which turned out to be a giant fraud. Even the money used to initially purchase the mountain itself was fraudulently raised. The mountain is currently being operated by a receiver appointed by a federal judge as a result of the SEC complaint. After a large settlement with the accounting firm Raymond James, the receiver has repaid all outstanding bills and is completing the development project that transformed the mountain from the best kept secret in the East into a luxury resort. Jay Peak, located just a few miles from the Canadian border, is the ski resort that reports the most snow in the East. Are these reports accurate? Maybe. Their location at the northern end of the Green Mountains make them prone to receive wrap-around snowfall after a passing Nor'Easter. This snow tends to be very fluffy, leading to the best powder in the East. But this powder doesn't make the best base snow so use caution if it is early season or there was recent rain. It's common to get a layer of powder on top of glassy ice. Jay Peak is known for its glade and tree skiing. It relies on natural snow to cover most of its trails. Snowmaking is not its strength, nor is grooming. The main trails are often icy, but the Jay loyalists don't care. You'll find the regulars in the trees whenever conditions allow. If you're looking for a ski trip to ski groomed trails, look elsewhere. Base Areas and Parking The mountain is divided into two base areas: Stateside and Tramside. There is parking, lodging, dining, and skiing at both bases. The Tramside is where you'll find the water park, ice haus, and main lodge and spa. It's also home to both the tram to the summit, and the Flyer Express Quad which is commonly referred to as the freezer. Given its more northern exposure, this is the colder and windier side of the mountain. Compared to Tramside, the Stateside area is like a day at the beach. This is the place to be to hide from the cold. While it is a bit less luxurious, it is still very well done. There are no express lifts here, but the chairs are worth the ride. Parking is also easier on this side, and this is where the regulars go. Trail Recommendations Beginner Beginners can do well at either base lodge, but will be limited to the lower mountain terrain. Don't be afraid of any terrain off the Taxi Quad at Stateside, Metro Quad at Tramside, or Village Double in between. At the top of the Taxi Quad, take a look at the side of a nearby building for inspiration. It reads "Fear is the enemy of progression." For skiers looking to step up from greens, try Full Moon, Half Moon, and Quarter Moon off of Perril Merril via the Metro Quad on Tramside. These are short intermediate trails that are a good step up. There are also so low angle open glades in this area to try. Intermediate The map may show a lot of intermediate cruisers, but the reality is a bit different. The intermediate terrain is quickly skied off and is prone to ice. Goat Run and Northway are particularly susceptible to this. Vermonter and Montrealer off the summits have a couple tricky spots that exceed what many mountains would rate as a blue. Ullr's Dream gets marginally less traffic and is a better bet if the weather is warm enough to take runs off the freezer lift. Intermediate skiers looking to dabble in the trees have a few welcoming options. Kokomo isn't much more than a low angle green trail but twisting around some clumps of trees. Likewise the Stateside glade off the Jet triple is intermediate friendly. Half Moon and Bushwacker on the Tramside lower mountain have trees. Advanced If you're looking for steep groomers, the Jet and Haynes off the Jet Triple on Stateside are the place to go. In between them, UN is a narrow ungroomed trail that is quite fun, and the next trail over is Kitzbuehel which is a great option on a powder day, though it is prone to icy patches. Green Beret off of Vermonter from the summit is a classic steep ungroomed trail. JFK off the freezer lift has nice bumps and twists. Upper Can Am is a steep trail next to the Bonnie lift, and it may or may not have snowmaking depending on management's mood that year. Tree Skiing / Glades Glades are where Jay shines. The options are numerous. Off the Jet: Timbuktu is probably the most popular glade Stateside. Just keep an eye out for the boundary rope. Kitz Woods nearby are worth hitting. Off the Bonnie: Canyonland is a good option. Deliverance is quite narrow up top and needs good snow. Off the Summit: Valhalla and the Face Chutes are Facebook photo worthy. But they both need a lot of natural cover. Off the Freezer: Everglade is a long glade run nearly all the way down. Beaver Pond and Andre's Paradise a popular glades that can get tracked out if the base is not deep. Dining and Drinking Breakfast Lunch / Dinner Alice's Table is the best restaurant on the mountain. Apres The Bullwheel is the bar upstairs in the Stateside lodge. It has a cut-out of a school bus adorned to the wall. It makes no sense, but it works. Tramside, head to the Tower Bar. Late Night While hardly late night, the action moves to the condos and water park. A drink in the bar above the water park will give a warmer feeling. Pro Tip: you don't need a water park ticket to access the hot tub outside it by the bar. Annual Special Events Local Ski Shops There isn't much around. There is a full service shop in the Stateside lodge. There is a shop down the street in Jay, but it's nothing impressive. Where to Stay If you're staying on-mountain, all the hotels are nice. You can't go wrong. But the location of the Tramside hotels is a winner for the proximity to activities. For condos there is a classic location vs luxury trade-off. The Slopeside condos have a perfect location in walking distance to the Tramside base and water park. The Village condos are much nicer and larger. Off-mountain, your options are very limited. For hostel style lodging filled with skiers on a budget, Grandpa Grunts is a legend. If you still want a hotel but can't afford Jay's on-mountain prices, you're going to have to drive. The Newport City Inn is about the best compromise, but don't expect much of Newport. Lift Tickets Adult tickets are $82. If you are a Vermont resident or have a pass to another mountain, you can get a $67 ticket. There is a ski group at Jay every Sunday that offers $35 lift tickets and $20 water park tickets. If you're looking for a season pass at a bargain, join an EICSL club and go on their annual trip in December. Participants get 5-days lodging and an unlimited season pass. Last year's price was $575. For more information: http://www.jaypeakresort.com/ All registered users can edit our mountain guides. Add your suggestions!
1 pointIntroduction Stratton is a big (and crowded) ski area in southern Vermont located near Magic and Bromley. It is owned by Aspen, and offers the same skiing amenities that you would expect. The terrain is very much an intermediate and beginner friendly mountain. Even it's double diamond terrain is really just single diamond difficult. For that reason, it is commonly referred to as "Flatton". The village at the base of Stratton closely resembles those you will see at many western resorts. It is one of the best developed commercial mountain villages in the East. It rivals that of Stowe. But don't expect affordability and authenticity. It's a manufactured "resort" experience geared at weekend visitors from New York City. The prices and atmosphere reflect their target clientele. Base Areas and Parking Most people will drive to the main base area and be herded onto shuttle buses from satellite lots. This is a mistake. Sure the village is cute, but the crowds are oppressive. The wise skier heads to the Sun Bowl where you can park close to the lodge. Drive past the main lodge to get to the Sun Bowl, or set your GPS to it. Lift lines at the Sun Bowl are shorter. The lodge is less crowded. Trail Recommendations Beginner On the main base side, work the trails off the Tamarack Triple. This is a gentle trail pod: Lower Tamarack, Mark's Run, Daniel Webster, etc. The Sun Bowl has longer novice trails: Lower Middlebrook and Lower Kidderbrook are off the Sunrise Six. Big Ben and 91 can also be accessed from the six pack, but are also accessible off the quieter Solstice Quad. If the summit is accessible, Mike's Way to Meadow is a gentle route to the main base. Intermediate All of the lower mountain trail pod on the Sun Bowl side is intermediate friendly. From the summit, Black Bear is intermediate. There are some intermediate options off the main base, but traffic can make them very busy. Fortunately even the "intermediate" trails on the lower mountain of the main base are easily skiable. Advanced Genuinely challenging trails are few at Stratton. Bear Down and Grizzly Bear have steep sections. Upper Middlebrook is narrower, but not too steep. Upper Tamarack has some nice turns. Tree Skiing / Glades Most of the glades are located on the Sun Bowl side. Upper Kidderbrook is a good feed trail -- Test Pilot is skier's right. Kidderbrook Ravine and Vertigo are skiers left of that trail. The Eclipse glade is widely spaced, well manicured, and intermediate friendly. It's the largest glade and is clearly visible to the right of the Sunrise Six. Lifts The lifts are modern and fast -- several are high-speed six-packs -- but the lines are often comically long. On weekends and holiday weeks avoid the gondola at all cost. The wise skier will work the Sun Bowl lifts. Even if you want to skier the trails on the right side of the mountain, use the South American or American Express lift to 91 to bring you back to the Sun Bowl. The lines on the gondola are almost never worth the wait. The Ursa Express from the mid-mountain is likewise very, very crowded. Ski it only in the early morning, around lunch time, or in the late afternoon to avoid crowds. Dining and Drinking -- On Mountain and Off Breakfast Lunch Apres Grizzly's, Fire Tower, and Bar 802 are decent places to stop for a beer after a day of skiing. Dinner The Red Slate at the Upper Pass Lodge is a small locally-sourced restaurant worth the visit. The menu is not large, but the food is good and atmosphere is nice. Late Night The Black Line Tavern at Magic Mountain offers the best night life in the area. It's a bar with live music, a great skier vibe and is open late. The Green Door Pub at the Stratton village is less authentic experience, but is conveniently located on-mountain if you are staying there. Annual Special Events The 24 Hours of Stratton is a 24-hour ski-a-thon to raise money for the Stratton Foundation to combat poverty in Vermont. It is the one time you'll get night skiing at Stratton as they bring in special generator-powered lights on the lower mountain. Local Ski Shops Where to Stay While not at Stratton directly, check out the Upper Pass Lodge at Magic Mountain. It is nearby in the same town and across the street from some of the Stratton employee housing. Season Passes / Lift Tickets Season Pass Options Lift Ticket Specials / Deals