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We are headed to Maine! Where should we go? Sugarloaf? SundayRiver? Anywhere else? [family trip]

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Well, we have decided to take a family trip to Maine in late January to visit some friends and want to take four days and go skiing. We are into long blue square groomers. Where should we go? We are thinking about either Sunday River or Sugarloaf but that is because we only have heard of these ones.....Not sure if there are others as well....??? Also, we are used to skiing at really small mountains like Windham etc.....so these are going to seem HUGE.. Nightlife etc is not really important to us since my kids are young. Looking forward to the responses. Thanks!!!

post #2 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by PearlRiverDad View Post
 

Well, we have decided to take a family trip to Maine in late January to visit some friends and want to take four days and go skiing. We are into long blue square groomers. Where should we go? We are thinking about either Sunday River or Sugarloaf but that is because we only have heard of these ones.....Not sure if there are others as well....??? Also, we are used to skiing at really small mountains like Windham etc.....so these are going to seem HUGE.. Nightlife etc is not really important to us since my kids are young. Looking forward to the responses. Thanks!!!


Will the ski days be midweek or weekends?  Will the kids be in ski school?

 

I just got back from driving in NH and got to check out Sunday River for the first time.  Lots of terrain, great snowmaking, and a fair amount of lodging options on resort.  My friends who drive up from MA on weekends say it can be pretty busy then.

 

I had a good time at Loon, which is also run by Boyne.  Lots of lodging options near Loon and in the town of Lincoln that is just a few miles away.

 

Take a look at Bretton Woods.  Have heard it mentioned when people ask about cruising groomers.

post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 


Will the ski days be midweek or weekends?  Will the kids be in ski school?

 

I just got back from driving in NH and got to check out Sunday River for the first time.  Lots of terrain, great snowmaking, and a fair amount of lodging options on resort.  My friends who drive up from MA on weekends say it can be pretty busy then.

 

I had a good time at Loon, which is also run by Boyne.  Lots of lodging options near Loon and in the town of Lincoln that is just a few miles away.

 

Take a look at Bretton Woods.  Have heard it mentioned when people ask about cruising groomers.


Thanks for the response Marznc! We will be skiing Thursday/Friday & Saturday. My son may take a lesson, but he will not be in ski school.

post #4 of 18

I've never skied at Sugarloaf, but my vote might be for Sunday River.  It's got lots of groomers -- some are blue/green and some are blue/black to black.  They pride themselves on their snow and grooming.  It's got more (not TONS - it's Maine!) lodging and eating than the Loaf.  And it's a long ridge with lots of runs, but the vert is not huge (1600' I'm thinking).  It would make a nice transition to a bigger place.

post #5 of 18

Sunday River and Sugarloaf are both huge, although in different ways.  As mentioned before, Sunday River is a long ridge with lots of stuff dropping off and interconnecting trails, etc.  Think wide instead of "high", although it's reasonably high as well by New England standards.

 

Sugarloaf is one very big mountain.  Think "high, not wide" (although again, at the base, it's pretty wide!).  The top is just a peak though, as opposed to the "top" of Sunday River just being a long ridge.  As you approach Sugarloaf, you will go around what is affectionately known as "Oh My Gosh" turn where you're driving along, wondering where Sugarloaf is and then you come around a corner and suddenly there it is in front of you.  And everybody says "OH MY GOSH!".

 

Sugarloaf and Sunday River have, in the past, had something of a rivalry being the two biggest places in Maine.  Once upon a time, there was a sign on one of the lift towers at Sugarloaf saying "if you were at Sunday River, this would be the top"...  and you were nowhere close to the top of Sugarloaf.  Those signs are long gone, but each has their legion of devotees and most people have a rather biased opinion as to which they'd rather ski (full disclosure:  I'd rather be at Sugarloaf).

 

Sugarloaf will definitely get you longer runs (just due to their higher vertical drop, and yes, intermediates can ski all the way top-to-bottom).  Sugarloaf is also a rather exposed mountain meaning that you can get a new appreciation for what "cold" and "windy" mean.  Sugarloaf is also in the middle of nowhere; there is nothing surrounding the mountain; the nearest "town" is probably 10 miles away.

 

Sunday River, by contrast, is a little more protected from the wind, there is a "real" town (Bethel) close by with various lodging / dining / entertainment options, it's a more resort-type feel

 

Both will be crowded on Saturdays and both have smaller ski areas in the vicinity that will be less crowded.  Mt. Abram is near to Sunday River.  Likewise, Saddleback is close(ish) to Sugarloaf.  I've never been to Mt. Abram; I've been to Saddleback and I think it's awesome, although their amount of "blue cruisers" might be questionable.

post #6 of 18

If it's relatively clear, could drive Wildcat from Bethel (about an hour).  The long green (think blue in the Catskills) has great views of Mount Washington.  The high speed quad gets you 2000' vertical in six minutes.  I think actually I skied more at Wildcat than Sunday River because there was no extra time going from one section of the ski area to another.

 

post #7 of 18

Size comparison is not the only criteria, but Windham has 267 skiable acres and Sunday River has 870 acres of trails and glades.  Of the 8 mountains at Sunday River, there are intermediate trails on at least 5 depending on how adventurous a mixed ability group wants to be.

 

Does Sugarloaf have a gondola?

post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 

Size comparison is not the only criteria, but Windham has 267 skiable acres and Sunday River has 870 acres of trails and glades.  Of the 8 mountains at Sunday River, there are intermediate trails on at least 5 depending on how adventurous a mixed ability group wants to be.

 

Does Sugarloaf have a gondola?

 

No, although they did once upon a time...  One of their endless cruisers (albeit it is quite steep) is called Gondola Line, so it's pretty easy to figure out where the gondola used to be.  ;)

post #9 of 18

Sunday River -- you are used to a smaller area, so why not try a bigger one?  SR has a lot of options for lifts and a lot of blue square cruiser terrain.  There is a ton of on-slope lodging, which can be quite a plus with small children.  If avoiding crowds is a bigger priority, then definitely go to Mt Abram or Saddleback.  SR can get pretty crowded on a Saturday in the middle of the day, but otherwise is quite manageable.

post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by PearlRiverDad View Post

Well, we have decided to take a family trip to Maine in late January to visit some friends and want to take four days and go skiing. We are into long blue square groomers. Where should we go? We are thinking about either Sunday River or Sugarloaf but that is because we only have heard of these ones.....Not sure if there are others as well....??? Also, we are used to skiing at really small mountains like Windham etc.....so these are going to seem HUGE.. Nightlife etc is not really important to us since my kids are young. Looking forward to the responses. Thanks!!!

Some good comments here, especially from Kevin.

One thing I'd reinforce for late January is reviewing your clothing inventory and tactics. Make sure you have it and know how to use it. (E.g., putting a slightly-damp-from-car-ride sock into your ski boot may fly at Windham. It will not fly at Sugarloaf on one of those "high of four at the base" days.)

As Saddleback ambassador I feel the need to plug my favorite hill. People here on Epic know it for its plentiful glades and narrow bump runs. However, it also has one of the very best learning areas in New England - very long, with multiple trail options including a tykes' terrain park. And it's all below the lodge away from faster and more experienced skiers. It's also beautiful and quiet and has a comfy chair.

As Kevin suggested, there are only about a half a dozen blue groomers but they are good ones. Hint: Blue Devil. See the Saddleback unofficial guide in my signature.
post #11 of 18

Rather than start a new thread, it seems better to join this one.  (Let me know if I should start a new thread).  We have a condo booked for this weekend at Sunday River which will be our first trip there and first trip of the year.  Would prefer to avoid the crowds but my daughter is in from school so it's the best time.  

 

We're coming from CA with China Peak being our home mountain and Tahoe close enough for a few trips a season.  I have skied Squaw, Alpine, Sierra Tahoe, and Diamond Peak.  Just added to our layers and updated our gloves since I've heard it's colder skiing now that we're on the East Coast.  

 

Any tips for first timers at Sunday River?  I'm a solid intermediate but my work schedule this year combined with a longer drive to a local hill means this minimal skiing this year.  (had approx. 25 days last year)  Wife is a lower intermediate and is perfectly happy on greens.  Kids are in between.  They should be better than me since I started later in life but are more easily intimidated.  I'm comfortable on Squaw's Blues but I realize it may be a low number who have skied Squaw and Sunday River with a Coast to Coast variety so not sure if that helps?

 

Any recommendations for family skiing at Sunday River?  Looking to stay together on easier blues with the option of me branching out to harder blues to keep from getting bored.  I haven't skied this year so I expect to be rusty.  

post #12 of 18

I skied Squaw in Jan 2013 and Sunday River in Mar 2012.  If you're comfortable skiing Squaw's blue square terrain around High Camp and Gold Coast you will find a good deal at a similar level at Sunday River.  There are a bunch of low intermediate runs around the Sunday River Gondola in the center of the trail layout.  Most other pods have some blues too and if you traverse to the far left or right you may find less crowds.  I don't know exactly what the current conditions are at SR but they appear to have 80+ trails and 10 lifts going, so pretty nice variety for Christmas.  New England is off to a pretty good start this year and SR has a great snowmaking capacity.

post #13 of 18

We went to Sunday River last January and have an incredible time. They do a wonderful job there. You mentioned skiing mainly intermediate runs, you cannot go wrong here. I have a great friend who lives in NH that I go visit every year and he has skied all over ME, NH & VT. Sunday River is his favorite place to ski. In any case, have FUN!

 

LabMan

post #14 of 18
Well, the first thing you should do is pray to the weather gods. Like NOW.



Kind of kills me because friends who went to Saddleback yesterday reported amazing conditions for early season. (They are supposed to get rain, too)

Presumably you came here from California for some good reason - i.e., not to ski at Sunday River.

On the up side, the skiing will probably be better than the forecast suggests, because that's exactly what they do well at the River - cope with our atrocious weather. And maybe crowds will be a bit off.

As for advice, I'll just say that the trap that you'll be tempted to fall into is putting a lot of energy into navigating all across the far flung area trying to find the shortest lines and best snow. The result is that you spend all your time on cat tracks and not much of it actually skiing. You will have to do some of this for sure. But once you find a lift you like with a trail you like, stop. Stay there and yo-yo. Don't reach for a Grail you probably won't find anyway.

I'm not finding myself with a lot to say about which runs to ski. For blues, make sure to check out the two off the Spruce chair, simply because the slow lift puts fewer people on the hill there. Others who are regulars will no doubt add info here.

If you are not enchanted after a day or two, check out the snow report for Mt. Abram, fifteen minutes away. A whole different world...in a good way.
post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sportsman View Post
 

Rather than start a new thread, it seems better to join this one.  (Let me know if I should start a new thread).  We have a condo booked for this weekend at Sunday River which will be our first trip there and first trip of the year.  Would prefer to avoid the crowds but my daughter is in from school so it's the best time.  

 

We're coming from CA with China Peak being our home mountain and Tahoe close enough for a few trips a season.  I have skied Squaw, Alpine, Sierra Tahoe, and Diamond Peak.  Just added to our layers and updated our gloves since I've heard it's colder skiing now that we're on the East Coast.  

 

Any tips for first timers at Sunday River?  I'm a solid intermediate but my work schedule this year combined with a longer drive to a local hill means this minimal skiing this year.  (had approx. 25 days last year)  Wife is a lower intermediate and is perfectly happy on greens.  Kids are in between.  They should be better than me since I started later in life but are more easily intimidated.  I'm comfortable on Squaw's Blues but I realize it may be a low number who have skied Squaw and Sunday River with a Coast to Coast variety so not sure if that helps?

 

Any recommendations for family skiing at Sunday River?  Looking to stay together on easier blues with the option of me branching out to harder blues to keep from getting bored.  I haven't skied this year so I expect to be rusty.  


I was at Sunday River for the first time in early Dec.  Plenty of coverage to be happy when it came to blues and the equivalent to easier blacks compared to Tahoe. Boyne runs the place well.  Very well in terms of snowmaking and grooming.  You will have a good time.  Conveyor loading was added to the triple to Spruce Peak, so it should stop less often than in the past.  If regulars are not aware of that fact, they may avoid it more so could be a good area to hang out.

 

Aside from the potential for colder temps than Tahoe, you should think about what your family would want to do in the event of rain.  The skiing can be good in the sense of snow conditions underfoot.  But of course if someone doesn't have waterproof outerwear, they are going to end up wet sooner or later.  My daughter has never liked skiing in the rain (live in the southeast) so we tend to do other things on rainy days.  At our home mountain, since we have season passes that's a non-issue.  But if we were thinking about going somewhere that required buying a day ticket then it meant that getting lift tickets in advance was often not the best option, even if that meant paying a higher price for the days we did ski on a multi-day ski trip. 

 

Are you staying on resort or were you thinking of driving to the slopes?

post #16 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sportsman View Post

Rather than start a new thread, it seems better to join this one.  (Let me know if I should start a new thread).  We have a condo booked for this weekend at Sunday River which will be our first trip there and first trip of the year.  Would prefer to avoid the crowds but my daughter is in from school so it's the best time.  

We're coming from CA with China Peak being our home mountain and Tahoe close enough for a few trips a season.  I have skied Squaw, Alpine, Sierra Tahoe, and Diamond Peak.  Just added to our layers and updated our gloves since I've heard it's colder skiing now that we're on the East Coast.  

Any tips for first timers at Sunday River?  I'm a solid intermediate but my work schedule this year combined with a longer drive to a local hill means this minimal skiing this year.  (had approx. 25 days last year)  Wife is a lower intermediate and is perfectly happy on greens.  Kids are in between.  They should be better than me since I started later in life but are more easily intimidated.  I'm comfortable on Squaw's Blues but I realize it may be a low number who have skied Squaw and Sunday River with a Coast to Coast variety so not sure if that helps?

Any recommendations for family skiing at Sunday River?  Looking to stay together on easier blues with the option of me branching out to harder blues to keep from getting bored.  I haven't skied this year so I expect to be rusty.  

If your condo rental is on the mountain, then family skiing becomes fairly easy. Don't try to ski the entire mountain in the same morning or afternoon, because Spruce/Barker/South Ridge is pretty well separated from Jordan Bowl area. This early in the season, you will find the most skiing (and best variety) on the Spruce/Barker side of the mountain. It is very easy to navigate between South Ridge, North Peak, Barker, and Spruce with some easy trails and some challenge on each lift. Sunday River has been one of my go-to early season choices, because they do such a good job making snow.
post #17 of 18
Thanks for all the good replies. I selected Sunday River because a friend recomended it and said it was better able to absorb crowds than the Vermont resorts, plus it is serving Boston but you get away from the New York CIty crowds that will hit Vermont.

Condo is ski-in/ski-out. (Brookside) Last year was a rough year in CA. Have been happy to see early season snow in New England resorts. I wouldn't try a trip this early except that my daughter is in from school and this will probably be the only trip for the entire family.

I'm watching the rain this week and grimacing. Not sure it's going to be cold enough for snow making when the rain stops. Weather looks good for skiing on Saturday but rain forecast early on Sunday. Praying it's snow or pushes to Monday.

I was worried about much colder temps than we are used to but looks like it will be warmer. Careful what you wish for. Hard to get just right.

Regardless, family will be together on the mountain. It will be a great weekend and looking to forward to it. Great advice to not waste the day traversing to look for better terrain or try to ski the whole mountain in a weekend.
post #18 of 18
Brookside is a good location for what you are looking for.
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