By Katherine Englishman and Josh Christie
Illustrated by Maghen Brown
Between them two, Newry’s Sunday seaside resort and the Carrabassett Valley Sugar Loaf Ski Resort Make up about two-thirds of Maine’s 1.3 million annual skier / snowboarder visits, but each has its own character and mystique. So which one to choose for your next weekend? We confronted the mega-resorts in Maine to see how they stack up.
Approximate annual snowfall: 155 inches
Ski area: 870
Vertical drop: 2,340 feet
Trails and undergrowth: 135
Full day adult lift ticket: $ 119
In 100 words
Spread over eight distinct peaks, all linked by ridges, connecting trails, and a large number of lifts, Sunday River offers terrain for all skill levels and alpine preferences. He is famous for his Herculean grooming and snowmaking efforts, which makes for almost uncertain days and a season that can stretch into May. And the Rivah is very welcoming, with three basic lodges, a mountain lodge, two hotels, a bunch of condos, and plenty of dining options. If Sunday River were a car, it would be a Subaru wagon: reliable, roomy, accessible, and perfect for a carefree trip with family and friends.
Three Mile Trail: From the top of Barker Mountain, a not too steep run through a winter wonderland, with beautiful views of the Mahoosucs. Beginners can enjoy an uninterrupted slide down to the North Peak Lodge, while more experienced riders can detour to the base lodges via intermediate trails connecting.
Rogue Angel: On Jordan Bowl, a fluid blue cruiser with a view of Mount Washington (you won’t get that at Sugarloaf!). Nice and wide for carving big turns, with some steep sections to challenge intermediate skiers.
White heat: On White Cap, the highest and easternmost peak of Sunday River, a track dubbed “the longest, steepest and widest lift trail in the East”. Thrill seekers can follow it in a straight line on the groomed half or test their courage (and quads) on a continuous run.
The staff, the maintenance crew, the guys and girls who do the grooming – they are part of your extended family and the best in the world at what they do. There is nothing quite like standing in line for the first two races right after you have finished grooming. The snow surface is like butter, unmatched on the East Coast.
– Luke Paliocha, artist and ski instructor with Adapted sports and recreation in Maine, who has been skiing Sunday River since the age of 6. Based in the mountains, Maine Adaptive promotes and facilitates skiing and other outdoor recreation for Mainers of all skill levels.
Someone from Sunday River
Jackie Paasso. A professional skier raised in Bethel and veteran of the Sunday River freestyle team, known for his tough load lines on the Freeride world tour – and to co-found SAFE AS clinics, which teaches women about avalanche safety. One of ESPN’s “50 Best Women in Action Sports”.
The Otten. A former resort manager at the time, Otten bought Sunday River in 1980, aggressively developed it, and eventually formed the American Ski Company, which owned 10 ski areas from Maine to Colorado to Utah. After his collapse, he was a partner with the Red Sox, then lost a primary gubernatorial post to Paul LePage in 2010.
Troy Murphy. A freestyle skier from Bethel who competed in moguls with the United States team at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Online, however, he is in character as Donny Pelletier, an avid Moxie Mainer who knows how to point them downhill while skiing in jeans at Sunday River.
Wood-fired pizza off-mountain, Swiss-inspired Matterhorn ski bar, where, in non-COVID times, diners enjoy live music and arcade games while waiting for their ‘za. The house beer is a crispy lager called the Ski Bar, which regulars at the ‘Horn’s Mug Club enjoy in traditional alpine mugs (and usually adorned with stickers). Shock block with ski memorabilia, the room is an extension of the shared, fun mountain vibe, with a little more alcohol in the mix. – KE
Approximate annual snowfall: 200 inch
Ski area: 1,240
Vertical drop: 2,820 feet
Trails and undergrowth: 162
Full day adult lift ticket: $ 119
In 100 words
Pain de sucre does not take on airs: it is far away. It’s cold as hell. Compared to other resorts of its size, amenities and nightlife are slim. But the Loafers arrive at the towering 4,237-foot peak for an unparalleled network of lifts and terrain. For serious powder enthusiasts, the elevated snowfields above Sugarloaf trees accessible by elevator are unique in New England, a playground of cliffs, waterfalls, and open space, and the footprint of the resort. has nearly doubled in the last decade with new sidecountry and cat-friendly fields. If Pain de Sucre were a book, it would be Odysseus: substantial and unconventional, with fierce advocates, rewarding those who go the extra mile.
Moose Alley: Nestled between the King Pine Bowl and the base area, it feels like a fairytale ski slope. Accessible by a wooden arch above a narrow path for goats, the trail passes the hut of mountain mascot Amos the moose before meandering through hilly, sloping bends on a gentle slope.
Tote route: Almost 4 miles longest Sugar Loaf Trail and a true tour of what the mountain has to offer. A wide cruiser that goes from top to bottom, it is gentle enough for beginners but varied enough not to bore more experienced schussers.
Snow fields: The white cap on the iconic Sugarloaf logo represents the only ski in the East served by ski lifts, above the tree line. No other place in Maine offers such steep inclines, 360-degree views, and the ability to choose your own adventure to pick the line you want.
The mountain itself is iconic, as anyone who has driven in Oh My Gosh Corner knows, but being a Sugarloafer really is the long history of amazing people who made it what it is. There are plenty of places in the world with great snow, but there aren’t many that inspire the kind of fierce loyalty and community that Sugarloaf does.
– Heather Sanborn, State Senator, Co-Owner of Portland’s Rising Tide Brewing Company, and third generation Loafer. Oh My Gosh Corner is a bend on Highway 27 where the mountain appears.
Amos Winter. Generally considered to be the father of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Winter cut the first mountain trails with a team known as the Bigelow Boys and was the resort’s first executive director. Frugal and rugged, eccentric and inventive, Winter was a Yankee through and through – the model of a typically atypical Sugarloafer.
Joan McWilliams Dolan. If freestyle skiing had been an Olympic sport 40 years ago, as it is today, McWilliams Dolan could very well have been Maine’s first gold medalist. “Cyclone Joan” (so nicknamed in ski magazines) won five national championships in the 70s and 80s and went on to coach future champions (and Olympians) at Carrabassett Valley Academy.
Seth Wescott. Perhaps the most famous son of the mountain, thanks to boardercross gold medals at the Turin and Vancouver Winter Games. Wescott grew up in Sugarloaf and remains a fixture – he is a co-owner of the Access Road Institution The shelf, a bar and a barbecue, and Winterstick snowboards, which has a factory at the foot of the mountain.
A Bag Burger to Bag and Kettle. An institution since ’69, the pub alone deserves a trip to the Carrabassett Valley (a life of Loafer was known to joke: “Heard they put a ski area behind The Bag?”). The signature burger is a charcoal-grilled mountainous patty with cheese, LTO, and a hot secret sauce – don’t skip the famous fried fries. With a home-brewed Maine Potato Ale, an amber made from Caribou Russets, a meal at the Bag replenishes all the carbs you’ve burned on the hill. – JC
Both belonging to Boyne resorts, the third largest mountain resort company in North America, Sunday River and Sugarloaf are adapting to the pandemic with advice from the “Ski Well, Be Well” best practices developed by the National Association of Ski Areas. The policies include:
- Face cover obligatory in all public areas, including in the ski lifts and in the queues, except for skiing or dining.
- Traffic adjustments in lodges, which will not offer equipment storage. (Start in your car instead.)
- Temporary portable toilets installed outside, to limit indoor traffic.
- Contactless terminals for collecting lift tickets.
- Radio frequency identification chips in tickets and passes, recognizable by contactless stations at ski lifts.
- No daycare program or classes for children 6 and under. Group size limits for courses for ages 7 and up.
- More than sundayriver.com/covid and pain de sucre.com/operations-hiver.