As I’ve adjusted to life in Maine, I knew skiing was going to be a big part of my winter. Growing up, my family and I went to North Conway for extended stays during ski season. Some of my favorite childhood memories come from our ski house, and on the mountain. Candidly, I broke my leg skiing in 7th grade… but we’ll just gloss over that for now ;). Since being in Boston the last 12 years, I haven’t dedicated as much time to making it the mountains, but this year, I made a commitment to spend more time in the snow. I splurged and bought an Ikon Pass (a pass that gets you to mountains all over the country for a flat rate). One of the perks of the pass is that it gives me access to some of my favorite mountains; Sunday River included.
My drive to Sunday River is roughly 2.5 hours. While that is actually a manageable distance for a day trip (believe it or not!), I wanted to spend a few consecutive days at the mountain in order to really enjoy the slopes. During the pandemic, it’s been easy to work 12 hours days because… what else are we going to do?! So, I created an excuse to spend each day outdoors, “carve out” some me time, and lean into that work-life integration that I’ve tried so hard to create for myself as a business owners over the years. With this game plan in mind, I booked 5 days at the Jordan Hotel, which is a true ski-in / ski-out access hotel. This was my first time staying at a property that had direct access to the slopes, and I don’t know how I’m going to stay in the mountains any other way in the future!
Some perks of staying at the Jordan Hotel include:
- Ski check, so you don’t have to worry about properly storing your skis, or carry them through the hotel.
- Heated outdoor pool and hot tub; perfect for post-ride recovery (which you can currently book appointments for, as there is limited capacity with COVID restrictions).
- A full kitchen in the rooms, meaning you can pack all of your favorite snacks, and even all of your meals for your stay.
- Three on-site restaurants, where you can currently coordinate to take anything to-go.
- Very quick WiFi, which was necessary for all of the Zoom calls I was taking in between runs.
If you haven’t skied at Sunday River before, there are few things you should know. First, they are incredibly well-known for their snowmaking. As many East coasters begrudgingly accept, we aren’t gifted with powder days as often as we’d like to be, and snowmaking is a must for early season skiing/snowboarding. Sunday River cranks out as much snow as I’ve seen from any other comparable resort, and that means you can book early season trips with assurance that there will be plenty of terrain to enjoy. The resort boasts 8 summits that stretch across across 5 miles, and there are runs for every type of snow sport enthusiast. As a newbie-friendly resort, they have a Beginner Ticket, which is less expensive than their standard lift tickets. Adults start at $49, and kids are $30-$40 — it provides access to just the South Ridge lift, which is all beginner terrain. And finally, for those who don’t want to throw down for a lift ticket, or take lifts all together for social distancing purposes, you can purchase an uphill travel tickets for $15. This is perfect if you’re equipped with a touring setup!
Are you a more experienced skier or snowboarder? Don’t worry, you won’t be bored! I recommend hitting White Cap (all the way skiers’ right) for steep terrain. Just be prepared for a bit a wind! Other challenging runs can be found on Oz, and when weather/snow permits, dropping lines in the Jordan Bowl is incredibly fun! Ultimately, you make the mountain as challenging as you want it to be, and there are plenty of opportunities to sharpen your skills here. Some my favorite runs include:
- Upper Tempest (black diamond)
- Cascades (blue square)
- Wizard’s Gulch (double black) – a great starter for those wanting to learn tree skiing
- Obsession (black diamond)
- Right Stuff (black diamond)
- Northern Lights (blue square)
- Lollapalooza (green circle) – connects to the Jordan Hotel
So, what is Sunday River doing to prevent the spread of COVID while aiming to keep the experience as seamless as possible for their guests? Let me preface this section with the this… with an ever-changing landscape of recommended protocols and expectations, businesses of all shapes and sizes are doing their best, Sunday River included. Below, I’m sharing what they’re currently implementing, and some of my personal anecdotes on my experience staying at the on-mountain property, and skiing there for 5 days.
- Face masks are required at all times, with two exceptions: you’re actively skiing, or sitting down to eat. Luckily this is a sport where covering your nose and mouth is relatively commonplace to begin with. I recommend double masking, and packing a dry mask in your pocket.
- They are currently operating on a limited capacity, which means booking in advance is practically a must. You may still experience long lift lines, but that is due to staff members reminding guests to stay six feet apart in lines, and limited rows to lifts to adhere to CDC distancing recommendations.
- If you do want to warm up indoors, especially during lunch, you have to book tables in advance, and they are operating under a limited capacity, and time limits, there as well. I personally did not dine in the lodges, and enjoyed the kitchen in my room at the Jordan Hotel for nearly all meals. There’s a good amount of outdoor seating that is available if you pack lunch as well.
- Lifts are reserved for you and the group you’re traveling with. For almost my entire trip, I rode lifts alone, or with a person from my bubble.
- If you’re coming for a day trip, you need to gear up at your car. I grew up doing this anyway, so not a huge adjustment for me. But for seasoned skiers, not being able to leave a bag at the lodge may be a surprise.
- Foot traffic flow is managed with signage, meaning entrances and exists are clearly marked. Restrooms also have a capacity meter, and will instruct you when you need to wait to use the facilities.
- Rooms are not being serviced in the Jordan Hotel during your stay to limit any opportunity of contact. If you need any extra items, they’re happy to send them up, but my room was equipped with everything I needed for a five day stay.
Travel is still looking a little different for all of us right now, but I was ecstatic to have a home away from home at Sunday River to start off the year. It was my first touch of normalcy since March of last year! If you have any questions about taking to the slopes this season, don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below. I look forward to heading back to Sunday River later for Spring skiing, and am excited to share some other mountain destinations on my blog for my fellow snow enthusiasts in the coming months.