Tag Archives: Sunday River

A Week at Sunday River

Last week Susan and I took a vacation up to Sunday River in Maine. We went skiing for 4 days, meeting up with a couple friends of ours. The trip was great and I got in a lot of good skiing. In fact, some of the trails were absolutely gorgeous. I spent most of the first morning at Jordan Bowl, skiing Lollapalooza, Excalibur, and Rogue Angel before skiing my way over to South Ridge to meet up with everyone. I skied a bunch off North Peak and did a run down American Express where I took a big spill, bruising my knee. I got up, brushed myself off, and headed back to the lodge to take a much needed rest.

On the second day, we both took a “Learn to Ride” snowboard lesson. It’s a 3 hour lesson that takes you from putting on your gear to making your first turns. I took a similar lesson about 12 years ago when I learned to ski. The only difference was that the ski lesson brought me down a real green trail at the end, teaching us how to load and unload on and off the lift. This lesson didn’t take us that far, but I was perfectly happy with that. My knee was still bruised from the previous day and the snowboard boots were downright uncomfortable. I have high arches on my feet and I have insoles in my ski boots to support my arches. The rental snowboard boots lacked any support and my feet were in serious pain. I made my way up and down the bunny slope pretty well for a beginner, but after the lesson, I decided I was done and turned in the board and boots in exchange for my skis. I never thought I’d say it, but my ski boots felt like slippers compared to the snowboard boots. After that, I did a couple runs down Barker, taking Lazy River and Ecstasy to Sunday Punch. I grew tired and decided to call it a day. Both knees, my butt, and my elbows were all bruised up from the snowboard lesson that morning. I used my elbows to land on because I didn’t want to screw up my wrists.

The third day saw the cloud return and the snow wasn’t as good as the previous day. I made a couple runs at Jordan Bowl before heading back to South Ridge to meet up with everyone. I decided to take it a bit easier that day after the rough day before. I made some runs with our friends, one of whom had just learned that day before venturing off with the more experienced of them. We headed up to Spruce and did Risky Business, which was in great shape that day. Then we did some trails on Barker. We had wanted to head over to White Cap, but got stuck because of racing and didn’t want to take the flat trail that is Roadrunner over there. When we got stuck, we had no choice but to take our first black diamond at the mountain. Monday Mourning is basically a straight shot down. It wasn’t bad and we both made it down the trail with relative ease. After taking another run down Barker with South Paw, which looked nice, but was all beat up and skied off, we headed in for the day.

Our last day was just me and Susan. She went out and did some green runs, and I skied over to Aurora to do Northern Lights. The snow was great that day and I should’ve done a few more or tried Airglow, but headed over to Spruce and Barker for a couple runs before making my way to White Cap down Roadrunner. I did a couple runs down there on Wildfire and Jibe, but didn’t make it up to the top for Salvation. My legs were just too tired to do that and then ski back. So I skied back and made my way down Lazy River back to the lodge and we called it a day.

It was a great trip and our first time staying at the Jordan Grand. I loved that hotel because it was very remote and I love the trails at Jordan Bowl. I’m not sure if we’ll stay there again because Susan preferred to start her day at South Ridge, taking the shuttle the first morning and the car the other 3. I didn’t mind skiing there and then skiing over to South Ridge. The road to the hotel is also a bit rough. It’s twisty and full of frost heaves. It also goes up about 1000 feet above the elevation of the rest of the base lodges. The room was fantastic and the view was gorgeous, especially when compared with our view of the parking lot when we stayed at the Grand Summit. The most convenient place was the Sunrise condos we stayed in last year. If we get a big enough group for the whole trip, we’ll likely stay there again, though the hotels are much much nicer.

The one thing I love about Sunday River is that just about everyone that works there is fantastic. It’s almost like Disney World for skiers. The mountain has something for all levels of skiing. They’ve got great snowmaking, making for a great season even when there’s no natural snow like this year.

Beering It Up… Maine Style!

No vacation would be worthwhile without beer involved.  So, since we had 4 beer geeks in the car, there were a few stops.

Gritty McDuff’s Brewpub, Freeport, ME

On our ride up to Sunday River, we stopped in Freeport to visit the flagship LL Bean retail store(s).  Since it was lunchtime, we decided to stop into Gritty’s Brewpub just down the street.  The place is big and pretty open.  There are 2 halves, one with a bigger bar than the other (it’s got the casks).  The side we sat in had the smaller bar with just some taps and regular drinks.  The tables were mostly picnic style tables, kind of like a German bar.  The food was excellent.  I had a burger that was fantastic.  The others in our group also really enjoyed their food.  They had their IPA and Scottish Ale on cask.  I got the IPA, Susan got the Scottish.  The IPA was awesome, but the Scottish was way off.  They also had the Black Fly Stout on nitro, which was also excellent.  We stopped by the gift shop, picked up a mini-keg of the stout and got some t-shirts.

Sunday River Brewing Co., Bethel, ME

At the end (or beginning, depending on which way you’re going) of Sunday River Rd. is the Sunday River Brewing Co.  This brewpub used to be owned by Stone Coast, before they went out of business.  It’s now the only place you can still get fresh Stone Coast beer, and what good beer it is.  I had the Alt and the IPA (still the good old 420 IPA).  Others in the group got the Red, which was also very good.  Their food is excellent.  They do a great BBQ and their house-made pastrami is awesome.  It’s also really cheap.  Pints are normally $3.50, but on Wednesdays from 3-7, they’re just $1.50.  If you’re in the area, SRBC is a “don’t miss”.

Shipyard Brewhaus, Whitecap Lodge, Sunday River Resort, Newry, ME

While this isn’t an actual brewpub or brewery, Shipyard has a bar at the Sunday River resort.  It serves beers other than Shipyard.  It’s a little on the pricey side with regards to the food, which is pretty good, but nothing special.  However, they have pretty much every Shipyard beer available (with the exception of the Pugsley’s Signature Series).  The beer is good, and pretty cheap.  Pitchers were just $15.  They had the Brown Ale, which is a special one, and it’s a good one.  They also had their Bluefin Stout, which was also excellent.  If you’re at Sunday River, you should stop by the Shipyard Brewhaus at Whitecap Lodge for some beer (though you can skip the food here).

And now… last but most certainly not least… (in fact, I saved the best for last)…

Ebenezer’s Pub, Lovell, ME

Note: I’m going to include a review of an inn here as well, because it’s necessary to spend a night if you plan on visiting Ebenezer’s.

The last night of our trip, we stayed at the Olde Saco Inn in Fryeburg, ME.  The inn is off Rt. 5, but way back in the woods.  In fact, the street wasn’t found on my GPS, probably because it’s really just a driveway for the inn.  The inn is gorgeous and the innkeepers are super nice and friendly.  They were very welcoming and accommodating.  The rooms were nice.  There was a huge fireplace in the middle of the first floor, which kept the whole place nice and warm and smelled fantastic.  They were baking cookies when we arrived.  The morning after, we woke up to the great smell of maple and bacon.  Since breakfast was included, we also got a huge meal.  It was well worth the cost.  It should also be noted that they run a shuttle service in conjunction with Ebenezer’s.  You drive to Ebenezer’s, drink a lot of great beer, someone from Ebenezer’s will drive you back to the inn, the next morning, the innkeeper will bring you back to get your car.

Now onto the stuff you wanted to know… Ebenezer’s!

Ebenezer’s Pub is a small restaurant and bar also set back in the woods (apparently, it’s on a golf course, but in the middle of the winter, you can’t see anything but white).  A lot of their business was snowmobilers, for whom they kept the heat down (my only complaint as it was quite chilly in there).  It was packed when we arrived, so we ordered some beer and waited for a table (Susan wasn’t able to sit at a bar height table because of her knee).  The tap list looks like you’re at a bar in Belgium that also serves a few American craft beers.  It ranged from the common Stella Artois (which I doubt he carries often) to the rare Black Albert and Cantillon St. Lamvinus.  In fact, the only non-craft beer on the list was Stella.  He did have bottles of Bud and Corona, probably to keep him in business.  Most of the people in there were drinking something other than the great draft beers they had.  After we ordered food, one of the waitresses started talking to us and bringing us samples of some of the great beers on tap, including Black Albert and a couple Cantillon lambics.  We drank a lot of beer, more from samples than actual orders.  They had Samichlaus Helles on draft as well as a 2004 Stone Old Guardian Barleywine.  Both were excellent.  The 4 Cantillons I had (2006 Framboise, 2006 Kriek, Rose Gambrinus, and St. Lamvinus) were excellent, though not quite as sour as they are from the bottle.  The Black Albert was simply amazing.  It was a little light in body, but the flavor was awesome.  The bartender had also brought us a bunch of samples.  The staff couldn’t have been better.

Ebenezer’s is a must visit for anyone who loves beer.  While they may not have the most taps or the biggest bottle list, they make up for it 10 times over with their staff.  We didn’t even get to meet the owner, Chris.

This doesn’t include all the beer we drank at the condo (Shipyard Export Ale, Geary’s Pale Ale, Geary’s HSA, Sebago Frye’s Leap IPA, Schlafly Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout, and more…).  It also doesn’t include the stop we made for lunch at the Portsmouth Brewery on our drive home.  I’ll write more about that next as it’ll include a bit more than just that lunch stop.

Skiing Sunday River

It’s been about a week since I left Maine and I have failed to write about my great ski trip.  We went up to Sunday River for 5 days of skiing.  Consider this a basic review of the entire experience.  We rented a condo at the Sunrise complex with ski in/out access to the South Ridge area (the largest base area at Sunday River).

Condo Review

The condo was supposedly a 1 bedroom that could sleep a maximum of 6 people.  We were told the bedroom had a queen sized bed and 2 bunk beds and the living room had a queen sized pull out couch.  The “bedroom” was actually this downstairs area.  The bed down there was only a full that sagged in the middle (not fun).  The upstairs was tiny with a really small bathroom area and tiny kitchen area that had a table that barely fit 4 people with the way it was situated.  The living room was 3 steps above the kitchen area and had a chair and the couch and a TV with a DVD/VCR player (that ended up not being hooked up, good thing we brought the portable DVD player).  The couch actually was a queen sleeper, though it was lumpy (I didn’t sleep on it, but the other couple did).  Luckily, there were only 4 of us as the hot water barely made it through 3 showers.  Other than those issues, the condo was fine for a ski trip.

The basement of the building had all the ski lockers.  We were not informed that our locker was at the end and not the same as the owner’s locker.  It was just a basic locker, about the size of a large high school style locker.  It barely held 4 pairs of skis and poles.  Had we had 2 others with us, their skis would not have fit and would have had to been kept in the condo, even though you’re not supposed to do that.  I don’t know what we would have done had any of us had a snowboard.

Snow/Mountain Review

I have skied Sunday River before.  In fact, it was at Sunday River where I first learned to ski about 11 years ago.  I took their 4 hour learn to ski program, which has to be one of the best programs for first time skiers available at any mountain.  If I have kids and want them to learn, they’re going to Sunday River to learn.  I skied there the following year when I first skied a blue trail (and busted my knee in a fall on that trail, but got up and skied it the very next day).  I didn’t return until about 2 years ago when Susan and I went back for a couple days, staying in the Grand Summit Hotel.  This was the longest ski trip I have ever taken, and it was well worth it, especially since it was all mid-week.

We all started out the first day in the North Peak area, getting our bearings and feet wet.  I then took off and skied American Express on Spruce Peak and Lollapalooza on Jordan Bowl.  The snow could not be beat.  The weather was perfect, the snow was great, and there was not a speck of ice to be found.  Over the course of week, I managed to ski something on every mountain (though didn’t hit the summits of White Cap, Locke, or Oz – Locke because they were doing racing events on the trails there, White Cap and Oz because I wasn’t ready to ski some of the difficult terrain there).  My favorite trails of the week had to be Risky Business, Lollapalooza, and the 2 blues on Jordan.  Unfortunately, the black trails I had wanted to ski were either left bumpy or closed for race events.  I didn’t make the jump to blacks that week.  I hope to go back next season to make that jump.

Clinic Review

I had taken a clinic there on the fourth, and coldest, day.  I was originally placed in a blue clinic, which I was told was for people looking to make the jump to blacks.  However, there were a lot of people in the clinic and only one in the black clinic and I was told I could join the black one.  So I did.  It was a smart move.  I had Mike from Bridgton, ME as the instructor (I believe he’s in charge of the ski school).  While I wasn’t sure what the clinic was helping with at first, I didn’t realize how much it helped until the next day when I was skiing perfectly parallel (I am a pretty decent skier, I consider myself a strong intermediate skier, but always ended up in a slight snowplow on steeper terrain).  Hopefully, I’ll be able to go skiing once or twice more this season to practice what I learned and get it into my muscle memory before I forget about it over the summer.

Overall, it was a great week.  I could not have asked for more.  The people at Sunday River are some of the best in the ski business.  They are super helpful, the staff is great, the instructors are top notch, and the mountain has something for everyone, from great beginner areas to serious glades, steeps, and moguls.  Susan ended up falling and messed up her knee.  Even the ski patrol was extremely helpful.