Smooth sailing on Risky Business. Photo by Tamsin Venn.

For the record, early morning skiing was just the best at Sunday River, Maine.

We skied this reliable, late-season spot over Easter weekend with two gorgeous sunny days, happy the travel restrictions into Maine had eased for us at last. Better late than never.

Everyone wore masks. Photo by Tamsin Venn.

Count SR’s season-long commitment to snowmaking (90 percent coverage) as the insurance that makes the late season possible, especially with paltry late-season snowfall. Also, a three-mile-long ridge of eight peaks gives skiers and boarders varied snow conditions at different exposures. You can always find something holding up well. Big vert lets you stay on upper slopes in afternoon to avoid lower-elevation slush. Good grooming helps put things right the next day in New England’s freeze and thaw cycle: 8 a.m. crispy corduroy.

All good.

The crowds were the biggest challenge. At the popular Barker Chair, social distancing was a little ragged, but everyone was wearing masks. People in the lift line were polite, waiting their turn, and no grumbling heard for riding alone. Slopes were busy, but most people knew what they were doing, including the rug rats, probably mostly passholders. (Note to senior self – the later in the season, the safer you are.) The one exception was the young, helmetless dude on the snowboard straight-lining White Heat.

There were a few surprises. We agreed to meet for Easter lunch at the sunny deck at North Peak Lodge, but only the bar was open. So we drank instead and ate chocolate bunnies. One closed trail we wanted to ski suddenly opened. The top of White Heat is nothing but a granite ledge with snow on top of it (you don’t realize that mid-winter). The schlep across a dry parking lot is not so bad.

I checked in with the millennials with me on what they liked at Sunday River and what they hope will be carried over into next year.

On the way over to the next peak. Photo by Tamsin Venn

Increased RFID use and access? Already there. Food trucks? Already had them. Outdoor dining? Great, unless it’s a blizzard. They can’t wait to get back to booting up in the lodge and more places to eat. They plan to renew their Ikon passes.

As for changes going forward, Sunday River says while plans for next year aren’t finalized, it will likely continue to encourage online advanced ticket sales, offer online food ordering at certain eateries, and hopes to expand takeout options.

Kelly Pawlak, President of the National Ski Areas Assn., noted successes that will likely be carried over into next year at most ski areas. Those include advanced ticket sales (ski areas like to know how many skiers will show up); reconfigured indoor spaces that open up space within lodges; increased use of ticket kiosks; outdoor living fixtures like fire pits, chairs, food trucks, outside food windows; and for employees, daily wellness checks, staying home if sick, plus sick pay for seasonal workers.

Summary of the 20-21 ski season? Like many, with the skis now hung up, I was very grateful there was one to begin with, and Sunday River made for a very rewarding finale.

2 Comments

  1. We had similar experiences Tasmin. Nice recap. Love Sunday River.

  2. Avatar Betsy Brauer says:

    Hi Tammy. Always enjoy your articles. Looking to drive out to New England this summer to see the gang — hope we can get together.

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