By: Jeanine Cox
Sunday River Resort is a great place for family fun.
Any day of the week, Sunday River Resort is a great place for family fun! Conveniently located in Newry, Maine, and bordering one of New England's most charming ski towns, Bethel, the mountain is part of the Presidential Slopes that range from Maine to the New Hampshire border. The charm of Bethel and the skiing at Sunday River makes this a perfect destination for a winter family excursion.
While Sunday River offers many activities and services to accommodate the entire family, you will find it hard to leave the slopes. With a variety of easy green trails from the top of 8 peaks, Sunday River is the perfect place for your beginner to intermediate skier to get the most out of the experience. Bottom dwellers (those of us who like our skiing to be mellow) will feel comfortable and enjoy the views from the top while managing their way down at their own pace and skill level.
Sunday River is huge! You can spend a good portion of the day cross - trailing and discovering the beauty of these slopes. I can't imagine a more perfect place to introduce young skiers to the thrill of skiing from the top. While Sunday is clearly heaven on earth for younger skiers, the seasoned skier will tell you that it offers a diversity of terrain and well-made snow to keep them equally challenged. We personally enjoyed watching "the experts" ski through bump and steeps from our chair lift and again at the mid-mountain lodge and restaurant.
The Perfect Turn® Ski instruction is a ski school program that was originated at Sunday River by the founder of American Skiing Company. Perhaps it is this history or perhaps it is just pure plain Maine pride, but you can sense a strong dedication to teaching you and/or (especially) your children the safety aspects and the fun of skiing. Because of its success on Sunday River, The Perfect Turn program (and Perfect Kids) has been implemented at other ASC resorts. Currently, the program can be found at Sunday River, SugarLoaf (See our recent review of this resort!), Killington, Mount Snow in Vermont, Attitash in New Hampshire and the Canyons in Utah. They also have snow-boarding lessons for older kids and adults.
You can choose half or full day Perfect Kid classes for kid's 4 - 14 . A full day of ski school is 9 am - 3 pm, which gives lots of time on the mountain at a relaxed pace. The coaches are clearly confident and skillful and their work shows in their amazingly quick results. After a couple of days in the program, many kids are skiing independently and using the chair lift. Another positive subtlety of their program is that the coach does a one-on-one with the parent and student at the end of each session -- a great "high five - you did that?" moment with your kids. All in all, Sunday River is one of the best places in the NE to introduce your child to skiing. Because of their school, and the variety of green slopes we strongly recommend it.
Younger children (or non-skiers) can spend the day in childcare. While the facility itself isn't state-of-the-art, the staff makes it up with their energetic friendliness. Our son had fun doing a variety of activities including getting out and playing in the snow. You can also book a private lesson for your tot during childcare hours with a friendly qualified instructor. A full day of childcare plus a lesson is only $65.00 -- a bargain in our book. Again, in our case, we were impressed with the private coach and received nicely written progress reports after each lesson.
During our visit we stayed at the Grand Summit Resort Hotel which is located at the base of the mountain but you need to take a chair lift or free trolley shuttle service to get to the main lodge. While you won't find 5 star services at the hotel you will enjoy the outdoor heated pool, the game room and the lodge style fireplace located in the lobby. You may also choose to stay in one of the hundreds of condominiums Sunday River has to offer. In which you will have more room, and a full kitchen while still enjoying the amenities of an indoor pool that most condos have.
You'll find many child-friendly eating options at the mountain including Rosetto's Ristorante at White Cap Fun Center, where you can enjoy turbo riding, video gaming or ice skating before of after a hearty meal. If you manage to get the entire family to the top stop at North Peak's Lodge for lunch or just a hot chocolate break, you'll find good food and good views! If you decide to take a trip into the charming town of Bethel, we recommend a visit to Mothers Restaurant. You and your family will feel like you've been invited into someone's quaint Victorian home for a relaxing dining experience. The staff is not just friendly, they are funny and the food is not just delicious, it's affordable and delicious. They welcome and enjoy children but they also have several small Victorian rooms with many hosting a more romantic, sans children ambiance.
If we haven't already given you enough reasons to take the kids to Sunday River, how about a world class family entertainment schedule? We were lucky enough to see The Magic of Lyn (yes, a female illusionist) which had both of our children in a state of awe. Check out their ongoing schedule at http://www.sundayriver.com/blackdiamond.html for future shows. Finally, how do you top a perfect day? OK, let me rephrase that… How do you top a perfect day with kids? Fireworks of course! There is an impressive display (see schedule http://www.sundayriver.com/fireworks.html) during peak weekend nights. If you're staying at the Grand Summit, you can watch from the luxury of their outdoor heated pool. What family wouldn't call this a great time - not ours, and we're betting, not yours!