We have had a couple of questions regarding what a ‘typical’ trip to Sunday River looks like as a whole; aside from just the skiing. Here is an example run down of the whole week based on our experiences along with input from some of our group members. This is a long post but we wanted to give as many details as possible for your benefit!
Our example leaves from Halifax, NS first thing Saturday morning; with about a 5 hour drive straight to the border crossing at Woodstock, NB. As mentioned in our FAQs, we prefer the stretch of New Brunswick highway to the Woodstock/Houlton border crossing vs the stretch to Saint Stephen/Calais. Pack car snacks and you can make it to the border without stopping for lunch; no guarantees on the number of stops for gas or bathroom breaks! It helps to leave as early as you can; our experience has been that if you hit the border too late in the afternoon you can expect lineups at the crossing (~ 1 hour).
We typically aim to fuel up in Houlton, just a few minutes from the border, so we can take advantage of the cheaper cost of gas in US (even with the exchange). FYI, there are lots of familiar Irving gas stations throughout Maine. There are places to stop for lunch in Houlton or you can continue on to Bangor, which is just less than 1 hr 45 mins from Houlton. If you are staying at the Country Inn at the Mall in Bangor, you can check-in and spend the rest of the day shopping in the area. The Bangor Mall has a large Macy’s and JC Penney, and there is a Kohl’s and Target as well and many restaurants to choose from.
If you are like us, you will continue on and spend Saturday night in Freeport at the Best Western Freeport Inn, an additional 1 hr 45 mins drive south from Bangor. The total drive for that one day (from Halifax to Freeport) would be approximately 8 hours; a long day but it makes sense for working folk who don’t plan to leave on the Friday. Leaving early (such as we do at 5 or 6 AM) plus ‘gaining’ an hour entering the Eastern Time Zone at the border, means we generally arrive around 2 PM. This leaves plenty of time in the day for other activities once you arrive, if you are still up for it.
There are a number of outlet locations to shop at in the Freeport area. Follow the link here for full details on the area. We often do well for outlet deals here! Also, as described in a recent post, Portland is only 20 minutes further south.
Sunday morning you have a couple of options. You can do some more shopping in Freeport (opening times of 10 AM on Sunday), drive south to Portland or to the Kittery Outlets (about 1 hour drive, opening times of 10 AM on Sunday), or make your way straight towards the hill.
Along the way to the hill, the route we travel goes through Oxford where there is a New Balance Factory Store worth checking out. Also in the Oxford area, there are a few good spots to stock up on groceries for the week such as a Hannaford Supermarket and a Walmart Supercenter. Sunday River is about a 1 hr 45 min drive from Freeport.
Arriving at the hill, head inside and check in at the front desk. The hotel does not guarantee your room will be available until 6 PM, but you can still obtain your lift tickets to ski Sunday afternoon after 12 noon. The Summit and Jordan have storage options for you to be able to change and get out on the hill as soon as you arrive, simply ask at the front desk. There should be trolleys available in the lobby which you can use to unload your car. It is okay to temporarily park close to the front door while you unload. Ask any of the staff working at the front door if you have any questions.
Full days of skiing can then be planed Monday to Friday! Lifts open at 9 AM and stop running between 3:30-4 PM, depending on the lift (it is clearly marked on each lift when it stops running). The Summit and Jordan have conveniently placed ski-checks for easy ski-in/ski-out access directly to the hill. We aim to be out when the lifts open to take advantage of the freshly groomed snow.
Monday evening (for both weeks) the hill hosts a wine and cheese event at the Summit for all group members. This is a great opportunity to meet us, other group members, and enjoy a complimentary drink and snacks. There is always plenty of cheese, crackers, and veggies, so we would love for all to come.
Wednesday (March 8th, NB week) and Thursday (March 16th, NS Week) there will be fireworks at 8:30 PM in the South Ridge Lodge area. The Foggy Goggle is usually a great place to take them in.
Evenings can also be spent in one of the heated outdoor pools, there is a gym facility, arcade areas, and lounge spots in front of the lobby fireplaces. If you decide not to make dinner in your room kitchenette – you can order in pizza or check out one of the restaurants (Foggy Goggle, Camp, Sliders, etc.) around the hill. Many are accessed for free via the Mountain Shuttle, no need to take your car.
One day mid-week (keep an eye on the weather to help choose a day) we ski for the morning until noon or so and then head back to the room for lunch and hop in the car to head to Settlers Green outlet area in North Conway, New Hampshire. There are a number of outlet stores here and it is only 1 hr 15 min drive away. We recommend traveling via the US-2 W and NH-16 S, which may not be the way your GPS initially recommends. This route can see a bit more snow as it a little further north, but it is a much nicer highway with less back-roads. We find this route quite scenic as it also takes you past Mount Washington, Wildcat Mountain, and Pinkham Notch. Setting the town of Gorham, NH as a via point should take you this way. There is also a Walmart Supercenter in Gorham if you need a mid-week stock up on groceries. Remember, no tax in New Hampshire helps make up for some of the current Canadian dollar disparity.
Friday morning check out is at 10 AM, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t ski for the day! The hotels have storage areas available to make it easier to change. We tend to ski until noon and then head to Bangor (2 hr 30 min drive) to spend the night at the Country Inn at the Mall, doing any last minute shopping in the area that evening.
Saturday morning is an early rise to head to the border and then home! Another long drive but more than doable in a day with it taking 6 hr 45 min to get from Bangor to Halifax. Back to real life (unfortunately!) and a full Sunday to unpack and unwind.