This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Visit Maine for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.
There is so much to love about Maine…beaches, lighthouses, lakes, mountains, parks, great food (and beer)…making it fun to visit in every season. But if we are going to Maine in the winter, there is no place we like better than Sunday River ski resort.
It is where Hannah learned to ski and where we keep coming back again and again. But it has been a few years since we have been to our “happy place,” so when Visit Maine invited us for a Maine winter getaway, we leapt at the opportunity for a mother-daughter trip.
Maine Winter Getaways
A Maine winter vacation offers plenty of opportunities to be active together. Outdoor adventure abounds with a plethora of winter activities. You can ski, snowboard, snow shoe, go snowmobiling, ice skate, and even try out dog sledding!
For a truly “local” experience, you can hire a Registered Maine guides to take you out on a winter adventure and show you some of their favorite spots. I still want to go snowmobiling one winter, as I have such fun memories of doing this as a kid, but for this trip, we were focused on skiing at Sunday River.
Sunday River Ski Resort for Families
Hannah developed a love for skiing on our very first trip to Sunday River and we keep coming back because the resort is so great for families. I’ve written about it before but some of the things that I love are:
- Excellent ski school — Hannah has always had a great experience and when I book her in a full day program, many times the afternoon groups are so small that she gets very personalized instruction
- Kid programming — they have “kids’ night out” so parents can have a dinner to themselves and they also offer family dinners on certain evenings up at the North Peak Lodge where you can take the gondola up for dinner on the mountain
- Eddy the Yeti — their fuzzy mascot has been known to make an appearance and thrill the little kids
- Ski in/ski out lodging options
- Consolidated beginner terrain — so many of their green trails are centered at the South Ridge Lodge area, near the ski school. I love this because you don’t have expert trails crossing greens and throwing off beginner skiers.
- Beginner lift ticket — they offer a beginner lift ticket, which gives access only to the South Ridge Express lift and the beginner trails that fork off of that peak. This is the area that I’m most comfortable so why pay for the whole mountain if I’m just using one part?
Check out this list if you are looking for other options for skiing near Boston.
Where to Stay at Sunday River
As a family, we have usually rented a ski in/ski out condo at the Fall Line Condos, just off the bunny hill near the South Ridge Lodge. This time, Visit Maine put us up at the Grand Summit Hotel on property.
While the Grand Summit Hotel is ski-in/ski-out, to get to the South Ridge Lodge where the lessons and rental office is, it is easiest to take the free shuttle that runs every 30 minutes. Just be sure to get to the shuttle stop early because they don’t wait around for stragglers!
The Grand Summit Hotel offers standard rooms to three-bedroom suites with kitchens. Some must also be vacation ownership properties because I saw a “owner’s locker room” downstairs. The hotel is very family friendly, as you can tell by the kids constantly pounding down the hallways and hanging out in the arcade and playing ping pong.
Just be forewarned that the walls are very thin, but luckily most people adhere to the 10pm quiet hours. Many kids also enjoyed the outdoor heated pool, that can be accessed from inside if you go into the gym and through the locker room. It is a bit hard to find and the entrance looks like you are going into the car wash but the novelty of swimming outside in the snow is a big draw.
The in-house Camp Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and even in snowstorms — although the wait is really long because everyone has congregated there when everything else in town closed.) They serve up tasty traditional pub food including a garlicky mac n cheese, meatloaf, burgers, venison chili, salt and vinegar wings and some really yummy loaded french fries.
Don’t expect a luxury experience, but they do offer full-service amenities like a ski check, the shuttle service, a full restaurant and even a nicely-curated gift shop.
Mother-Daughter Bonding on the Slopes
But we weren’t there for the hotel, we were there for the skiing and it did not disappoint. Since it has been a few years since we have been on the mountain, we were signed up for two, two-hour private adult lessons.
I haven’t had a ski lesson in over 15 years (and it was only one), so I didn’t know what to expect. But since I need to work on my skills and confidence, I was eager to give it a try. Hannah has had quite a few ski school experiences, but never private lessons and I was happy that we were able to do this together.
While Hannah has more confidence and enthusiasm than I do, our skills have both progressed so that we aren’t too far apart. One thing that our lessons and time on the slopes taught me is that while I’m still a beginner, I’m a much better beginner than I used to be.
When I’m comfortable with the terrain, like I am on the green trails at Sunday River, I can do my soft parallel turns with ease. Take me up to the top of the mountain on steeper terrain and my confidence shatters, but at least being with a coach gave me the courage to give it a try. Our coach Dolores did her best to get us to stay small and release into our turns, and keep our knees above our bindings.
But like any physical activity, when I start to think too much it all falls apart. If I focused on one piece of advice at a time, I was able to slowly incorporate those skills into my natural rhythms. This was especially helpful on the steeper terrain where I played that soundtrack in my head to focus on the turns and not my fear.
Our first day was cold but sunny blue skies overhead. The conditions were great and we came so far in our comfort levels. After our lesson, Hannah wanted to try ski school for the afternoon so she could get onto some more challenging terrain while I practiced down below. At the end of the day, she was so enthusiastic about skiing again and thrilled with the opportunity to see more the mountain.
We ended our day on the slopes with an hour of skiing side-by-side. It was so nice to just ski together. Not me waiting for her, not her waiting for me, but just zooming down the slopes together and even racing sometimes.
Our kids love when we do things with them, not just supervise or let them play with friends. This is something I need to remind myself of more often. I need to find a way to bring back family game nights and incorporate more of those “in the moment” playtimes together without phones, computers or distractions.
Our summer walks are good for those moments but it gets tricky in the winter. I’m glad skiing together helped bring that back for both of us. Our second day was the day blizzard “Stella” came to town. We spent the morning skiing in the fresh powder and had a whole new experience. Since we’ve only ever skied on the East Coast, we found skiing on powder very different — and more challenging!
I love the quiet moments of gliding on the top of the peak, but after the accumulation started forming small piles of snow, I found keeping my balance as I hit those piles a bit harder. I’m sure it is something we could get used to and now at least we have had a taste of it in case we ever get to ski out west. I will say that being at a ski resort during a snow storm is pretty fun — what better place to be right?
Taking this trip makes me look forward to our next mother-daughter adventures and reminds me to make sure we include some outdoor adventures along the way to have more of those special shared moments of happiness and accomplishment. To learn more about what there is to do in Maine in winter, be sure to check out the Visit Maine website.