48 HOURS-February 2013
Photographs + stories by Maine magazine staff:
Kevin Thomas + Heidi Kirn
Art Director Maine Home+Design
3:00 p.m. heading northwest
on Route 26
Maine State Route 26 was commissioned in 1925 and it feels that way. The road is narrow and winding—a mix of glorious countryside, rural decayed beauty, and classic Maine towns. This is a very special journey for me. I grew up near Bethel, went to school in Bethel, and got married in Bethel. Not long after the wedding my mom and dad moved away. This will be our maiden voyage as a family and our first trip back since our wedding.
5:00 p.m. @ historic village
of Bethel We roll into downtown Bethel. Main Street is lined with 1800s Greek Revival homes, many of which house local businesses. I ask my husband, Neil, to slow way down so I can point out all of the places to my two children, Lily and Charlie. I point out the Sudbury Inn where Neil and I had the rehearsal dinner for our wedding. We turn left and drive past the restaurant 22 Broad Street, all lit up with festive winter lights. I have heard from many sources that the Italian fare is delicious here, but we intend to walk down memory lane and visit the Bethel Inn.
5:15 p.m. @ The Millbrook Tavern and Grille at the Bethel Inn The Bethel Inn is lit up with white lights and looks magical against the dark night sky. The inn is a large, rambling colonial-revival guesthouse that opened in 1913. Neil and I held our wedding reception here and when we enter we are instantly transported back in time. We marvel over the fact that so many out-of-town friends and relatives descended on Bethel for the weekend. Many had never been to Maine so they extended the stay to play golf at the Bethel Inn and enjoy the local sights. Tonight, the lights are dim and the fire is warmly illuminating the room. We show the kids the dining room and dance floor, where 200 of our friends and family gathered to celebrate with us, before we head down to the cozy pub for dinner. Our server looks very familiar to me. When I introduce myself to her, she tells me that she remembers working at our wedding! She knows my mom and dad and goes on to describe the house I grew up in. We enjoy catching up a bit.
7:00 p.m. @ Grand Summit Hotel The hotel is right on the mountain. A fire is roaring in the massive stone fireplace in the lobby. Walking in you can feel the almost giddy energy of everyone excited to be there. There is a hotel store that has everything you might have forgotten, from ski gloves and toothpaste to gifts and souvenirs. We make our way up to our spacious condo, which features a deck. The living room is large with a dining area. It also has a nice kitchen equipped with a stove, fridge, and—most importantly—coffee and a coffeemaker. The kids are excited about the bunkbeds in their bedroom.
7:45 p.m. @ Grand Summit
Hotel Swimming in the indoor heated pool under the stars next to the white slopes is magnificent.
8:00 a.m. @ Legends Restaurant
Conveniently located off of the hotel lobby, the breakfast buffet is included in our stay. The kids fuel up on pancakes and fruit and Neil and I enjoy made-to-order spinach omelets. The restaurant is full of skiers in garb anxious to hit the slopes.
9:15 a.m. @ Perfect Turn Ski and Snowboard School
Lily is nursing an injury so, to her dismay, she will sit this weekend out. Charlie is a bit nervous to go alone, but the friendly staff immediately puts him at ease. There seems to be a sea of ski-school instructors in red, and they are all on hand to help us. I am relieved at their well-oiled system of caring for children. I’m given a necklace that means my child will only be released to me. They are on top of allergies (and even peanut free) and special needs as well. We send Charlie off for the next two hours.
10:00a.m. @ Sunday River Sports
We wander into this large shop that has everything you need to outfit yourself to ski or snowboard. Hakan “Hak” Adams greets me. My colleague Melissa Coleman tells me this is the best boot-fitting place around and I ask him what makes it special. He explains that there are 70 years of experience between the three boot fitters there. He is in his twentieth year. He explains that they are all in the business because they are die-hard skiers.
11:00a.m. @ Foggy Goggle
Lily and I have some time to kill and decide to scope out the Foggy Goggle, which is known for après-ski fare that includes burgers, chili, chowder, daily soups, famous nachos, and lobster mac ’n’ cheese. There are vegetarian and gluten-free options, too, but we’re waiting to eat lunch with Neil and Charlie.
12:00 p.m. @ Cho Sun at South Ridge + the South Ridge Food Court
I have heard so many great things about Cho Sun on Main Street in Bethel and I am thrilled to see they have a new place in South Ridge, where they serve Japanese and Korean food with a full bar. They have a gluten-free glass noodle bowl that is so delicious. The kids opt for more traditional fare from the food court.
2:00 p.m. @ Swim/health club
After a day of skiing we head to the health club to stretch a bit and hit the sauna and pool.
4:00 p.m. @ the Bethel Sunday River Bridge I used to drive by the covered bridge to visit my parents’ place and often stopped to enjoy the view of the mountains and rivers. The sound of the water and the mountain air are therapeutic.
4:30 p.m. @ Gould Academy Gould Academy is a coed boarding school right in the town of Bethel. I both attended Gould and taught art there for a short period of time, so I was anxious to show the kids the school. We walk into Hanscom Hall, a huge brick neoclassical building with columns, where I attended classes. I had heard that the library had been renovated and am thrilled to see they incorporated the work of Maine artists, including George Mason.
6:30 p.m. @ Matterhorn Ski Bar
The Matterhorn was voted best classic ski bar by Ski and Skiing magazines, and this family agrees that it’s awesome! We love the live music and great food, including wood-grilled pizzas (and a gluten-free option). The wood-paneled walls are covered with old skis, deer heads, and Twister games to create a funky vibe. My kids enjoy the arcade area while Neil and I relax at our table.
9:15 a.m. @ Perfect Turn Ski and Snowboard School After dropping Charlie at his lesson I have a chance to talk with Meredith Harrop, who is the Children’s Program Manager. She tells me that group lessons for skiing start at age three, for snowboarding at age seven. They have a staff of around 230! She adds that 85 percent of the staff returns each year. Their motto is that they want to make families skiing families, and it all starts with teaching children to ski.
10:30 a.m. @ Chondola Ride Lily and I are excited to learn that we are able to ride the Chondola (part chairlift, part gondola) up to North Peak and back to South Ridge. Built with six-person chairs and eight-person gondola cabins, riders can access six of Sunday River’s eight peaks from the Chondola’s top terminal. We enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains in comfort and warmth from inside the enclosed cabin as we chat with a family from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, who make the five-hour journey up each weekend to ski.
10:40 a.m. @ Peak Lodge We get out and decide to check out Peak Lodge. We find a wood stove, bar area, and lunch options including soup in bread bowls and wraps. We learn that you can ride the Chondola up for specialty dinners most Saturdays.
1:00 p.m . @ Erin’s Cafe on Main
After a morning on the slopes we head into the town of Bethel. Erin’s is a breakfast and lunch spot in a beautiful old home on Main Street. The eclectic decor matches the menu: bison hash, vegan options, and gluten-free pancakes all share a place here. I read that their fish chowder won top honors in a recent local competition, and that sways my choice.
2:00 p.m. @ The Philbrick Place
The Philbrick Place is a collection of artists, shop owners, and consignment stores all under one historic roof on Main Street and offers handmade crafts, jewelry, and artwork from local artisans.
3:00 p.m. @ Church Street
Snow has been falling and we decide to take one last drive down Church Street. It looks beautiful under a fresh blanket of white snow.
4:15 p.m. @ Cape Elizabeth
My sons and I are packing the cars: never underestimate the space a weekend ski trip requires, especially when there are seven people involved. The loading of the ski clothing, gear, and food, takes some time. But we’re also energized because we’re returning to a place we know well. We’ve been heading to Sunday River as family for over a decade.
6:15 p.m. @ Good Food Store and Smokin’ Good BBQ The group of us are taking two cars. I arrive in Bethel first, with my teenage son Jack and his two buddies Dylan and Tucker. In the second car, Jack’s brothers Sean and Andrew, and their friend Abby, are at least an hour behind us, so we stop at the Good Food Store to get some supplies. Owner Dave Nivus provides the best organic and natural selection in town along with an array of gourmet items. While there, I deliver a mounted cover of the January 2012 issue of Maine magazine featuring their BBQ trailer.
7:15 p.m. @ Suds Pub Suds Pub has begun nearly every Thomas family weekend in Bethel for the past 11 years. We’ve known Joyce and Stacie for what feels like all those 11 years, and tonight they greet me with a margarita just like old times. We’ve beat the crowds and are seated quickly at a long family-style table in this basement ski pub. Cheese nachos arrive as I marvel at how the place hasn’t changed a bit—the same collection of ski related signs, vanity plates, and business cards hang from the ceiling. We come here for more than food; we come here to reconnect with the community of skiers that call Sunday River home in the winter.
9:15 p.m. @ Grand Summit Hotel This weekend, we’re staying at the Grand Summit Hotel at Sunday River in a spacious three-bedroom, fourth-floor suite. One room has three bunks; Jack and his friends will stay there. Andrew gets another bedroom and my bedroom suite is on the opposite end. Tomorrow we will make the most of the hotel’s ski-in ski-out location, but for now the boys are thinking swimming. They have less than 30 minutes to enjoy the heated outdoor pool, hot tub, and sauna, so off they go.
7:30 a.m. @ Legends Restaurant
The breakfast buffet, included with our room, is located on the first floor. Andrew sleeps in while the other boys and I wander downstairs. When we return to the room, Andrew’s ready to go and he and I are on the slopes by 8:15.
8:30am. @ Sunday River The sun rises to your left and over the edge of Locke Mountain when riding the chairlift. I’m marveling at the sight of rays falling through trees and illuminating plumes of snow pumping from numerous snow guns. We are among the early risers, a limited few that get to see this and experience the groomed corduroy trails.
10:00 a.m. @ White Cap Lift
Andrew and I ski past White Cap Lift, one of many that cover the eight mountain peaks and 133 trails that make up Sunday River, and spot Jack. We meet up and soon a friend sees us and joins in. I immediately imagine the gang growing larger and faster, and myself falling behind! They all know this mountain well and cover its 743 acres easily, so I know it’s best to keep up.
10:15 a.m. @ South Ridge
We ski down to the main lodge, South Ridge. There must be a couple hundred people milling about, waiting for friends, and getting on lifts (the Chondola leaves from South Ridge). I’m looking at a group comprised primarily of student-aged skiers and boarders. They aren’t gaming, watching TV, or surfing the web. Instead, they’ve chosen to be out in the cold, with friends on the slopes. This mountain is vast and crowds disperse quickly as people spread out to hit their favorite runs.
11:15 a.m. @Moonstruck Cafe Andrew is hungry. We dash back, still on great conditions, to the Grand Summit and ski up to the hotel. The cafe is located just inside the door and he wolfs down a hearty breakfast. While there, his 20-year-old brother calls in. Sean has been staying at his mom’s ski cabin just five minutes from the mountain. He’s on the mountain now and looking to connect.
12:00 p.m. @ Grand Summit
Lobby An enormous stone fireplace rises up through the lobby of the Grand Summit. Melissa Coleman, author of This Life is in Your Hands, and our former 48 Hours writer, now lives in Bethel, where she is working on her next novel. Her husband coaches Nordic skiers at the venerable Gould Academy (established 1836). She has agreed to meet me for coffee to catch up and to share her insight into the area.
1:00 p.m. @ Zipline Sunday River introduced Zipline Tours in the summer of 2011. Certified guides take riders through a two-hour mountain course. Show up early and with shoes—not ski boots—or you’ll be left on the ground like my son and his friends were. And, if you’re not yet three feet tall and at least 70 pounds, you’ll need to wait until next season.
1:30 p.m. @ Pinnacle
Snowboard Shop Looking for cool gear? Pinnacle has a collection of goggles in countless shapes, sizes, and colors that any 16-year-old would die for.
2:00 p.m. @ Linda Clifford
Scottish and Irish Merchant
One of my favorite stores in Bethel, Maureen offers a select assortment of jewelry, glassware, pottery, and more from Scotland and Ireland. I love the quality, waxed jackets from Barbour. Designed to resist the worst of weather in the United Kingdom, they are perfectly suited for Maine. I own one but pick up another for a friend back in Portland.
2:30 p.m. @ Bethel IGA I need some basics to keep the teenagers fueled and head to the grocery store in town. Admittedly, I also visit to ensure there are Maine and Maine Home+Design magazines offered at the checkouts.
3:00 p.m. @ Mill Hill Inn Many have suggested that I have dinner at the Mill Hill Inn. I stop in to see if they have room for my crew and learn that they’ll be closed for a private party. I’ll be back. Owners Woody and Lee Hughes are welcoming souls and I know that I’d be in good hands here.
3:30 p.m. @ DiCocoa’s Keeping up with the boys, early morning skiing, and the whole 48 Hours adventure have me dragging a bit. I’m considering a cup of coffee and scone at DiCocoa’s on Main Street but have Emma serve me up an affogato (made with gelato and espresso) instead.
4:00 p.m. @ Sun Valley Sports + Northeast Snowmobile Rentals
By chance, I see a long trailer with what must be 10 to 12 snowmobiles at the Irving station. I want to know what’s going on and find out that my friend Lisa Freda from Sun Valley Sports has struck a deal with Northeast Snowmobile Rentals to operate her business. She and her late husband Rocky, both Registered Maine Guides, were my first friends in town.
4:30 p.m. @ Sunday River Sports Sunday River Sports is located at the South Ridge Lodge and they have everything you might need to enjoy a day of skiing. I’ve come because I was told I could find Lisa here, but end up checking out the merchandise—including a cool SkiME/Sunday River T-shirt by the team at LiveME—and leave with a new ski helmet.
5:30 p.m. @ Matterhorn Ski Bar Chris and Cyndi Smith, two Maine magazine photographers, are in town with their kids. I think they’ll be at the Matterhorn, so I head that way to say hello. The Matterhorn is one of the top après ski choices in town—it defines “New England Ski Bar” and always has great live music. Tonight is no exception: the place is jamming as we walk through the door. Pub food never tasted better.
9:00 p.m. @ Phoenix House and Well I missed my connection with Robin Zinchuk, Bethel’s hard working chamber director, but she told me that I shouldn’t miss the band Shut Down Brown. They are playing at the Phoenix, sponsored by local energy drink phenomenon Black Bear Energy (a high dose vitamin B-12 drink). The crowd is young and having a blast. All I’m thinking is pass me an energy drink…
8:30 a.m. @ Sunday River Rentals The boys want to ride today so they ditch the skis and we head over to rent gear. The guys behind the counter are accommodating and they are on boards in no time. Sunday River Rentals has a great lineup of ski and boot rentals, as well as high performance skis to try out.
2:00 p.m. on the road home
A 48 Hours ski trip is exhausting. We’re ready to head home and get acclimated to another week of work and school. We make one quick stop at the Good Food Store, this time for sandwiches for the ride, and we’re on our way. I’m thankful, once again, for this gem of a town.