An Insider's Guide to the Après-Ski Lifestyle at Sunday River

There's plenty of post-ski entertainment to be found both at Sunday River and in the nearby town of Bethel.
There's plenty of post-ski entertainment to be found both at Sunday River and in the nearby town of Bethel. Courtesy of Sunday River
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The quest for fun at Sunday River continues after the lifts close and the sun sets. Sunday River provides a host of options for those looking beyond the slopes for entertainment, whether you’re looking for a post-ski pub, a spa treatment, or a late-night dance party.

On-mountain, your first stop has to be the Foggy Goggle, a Sunday River classic serving up local microbrews like the thirst-quenching Sebago Frye’s Leap IPA. Pair that with an epic plate of nachos, lobster rolls you can’t resist, and live music, and it's hard to beat. For a more subdued scene, the Barker Bar in Barker Lodge has a large fireplace and a view of the mountain to watch last-run stragglers make their way down. On a warm spring day, opt for the sun-drenched deck at Sliders at the Jordan Grand Hotel, where you can grab a brew and a burger. Or try Sunday River’s new offering for this season, the Rockin’ & Roastin’ Café & Restaurant, which holds great promise for those looking for a party, given its ownership. Co-owners Les Otten, founder of American Skiing Company, which used to own Sunday River, and Aerosmith legend Joey Cramer will open the restaurant in December. It will serve coffee and baked goods in the mornings and an intriguing lineup of sandwiches for lunch. Even if the menu features kitschy items like “Livin’ on a Wedge” and “Janie’s Got a Bun," its three bars and frequent musical guests, will make it a popular destination on the post-skiing party scene.

Take advantage of outdoor dining on the mountain at Sunday River.
Take advantage of outdoor dining on the mountain at Sunday River. Courtesy of Sunday River

For those seeking a bit of healing after a tough day on the slopes , the Jordan Spa and Summit Health Club offers a full suite of spa massage treatments. Besides the classic Swedish massage, the spa provides wellness classes, manicures, pedicures,  paraffin treatments, and even an only-in-Maine (or Vermont) maple sugar body scrub. That’s sure to make you hungry, so for dinner, try the brand-new Camp, at the Grand Summit Hotel, serving Maine comfort food like prime rib shepherd’s pie or lobster mac ‘n cheese. Alternately, a real treat is dinner at The Peak, which requires a lift ride up to a mid-mountain lodge where you will feast on gourmet cuisine. If you’ve sprung for a condo with a kitchen and plan on cooking for yourself, drive into town and check out the Good Food Store, featuring natural and organic foods, produce, and a great beer and wine selection. If you prefer to have your dinner cooked for you, right next door is Smokin’ Good BBQ, which smokes its meat to such perfection it would make a Texan pitmaster jealous. Arrive early, though, as the joint closes at 7pm.

For nightlife, it pays to  check out the Sunday River events website as the resort itself regularly hosts a variety of fun events. Worth particular mention is the Spring Festival, with pond skimming and tailgaiting; White Out Weekend, an event geared towards the LGBTQ community, and Parrothead, a two-day Jimmy Buffett-themed party planned for early April. On a night when there’s not much going on at the resort, drop the youngins off at the Summit Hotel, which provides evening child care for children up to six years old, and head into Bethel, a 10-minute drive away.

Enjoy a beer sampler at Sunday River Brewing Company with friends after a long day on the slopes.
Enjoy a beer sampler at Sunday River Brewing Company with friends after a long day on the slopes. Russell Sprague

You would do well to make your first stop Sunday River Brewing Company , where serviceable bar food is helped out by a widely ranging assortment of finely-crafted, house-made beer. If it’s in season, steer towards the malty, golden maibock lager, or if you’re feeling frisky, spring for the eight-beer sampler.

For dinner, the Sudbury Inn is Bethel’s best choice for fine dining, with choices like veal marsala or roast rack of lamb (entrees are in the $20 range). Downstairs, Suds Pub is the more funky and affordable option and has a wide selection of beers on tap. Try the bison burger with a Shipyard Export or the BBQ ribs with an Allagash White. You can find great Korean dishes like bulgogi and bibimbap at Cho Sun Bistro and Hibachi. If you’re in the mood for Italian, 22 Broad Street is your best bet and has a funky martini bar. The tapas at the Mill Hill Inn are a can’t-miss, especially for vegetarians, and the folksy inn also hosts occasional live music events.

To get the party started afterwards, cruise over to the Millbrook Tavern, which has a fun bar. Suds Pub also has a fun post-dinner bar scene, especially on Thursdays, when it hosts a popular open mic event it has dubbed “Hoot Night.” Another can’t-miss destination is the Funky Red Barn, an unpretentious place that can be counted on for good music and great energy. Rated “favorite mountain-town dive bar in the Northeast” by Backcountry.com, the Barn hosts DJs on Friday and Saturday nights year-round. If you like to gamble, the Oxford Casino is less than 30 minutes away from Sunday River and has a large selection of slots and table games.

Eventually, however, you’re going to want to make your way over to Matterhorn Ski Bar.  Recognized as the “best ski bar” in the U.S. by Skiing Magazine and as the “best classic ski bar in the East” by SKI Magazine, the Matterhorn has live music up to five days a week during ski season, including every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. The food alone is worth the trip, with wood-fired pizzas that taste like they’ve come straight out of an oven in Naples, delicious home-cooked meatloaf, risotto, steaks, and alcohol-absorbing, late-night snacks such as garlic knots and Buffalo-style chicken wings. As the night matures, the scene only heats up. The bar, composed entirely of ‘80s-era, sharp-tipped skis, gets busy. A huge flatscreen TV starts broadcasting ski-porn, and fluorescent drinks, like the Avalanche, a mixture of light and dark rums mixed with fruit juice, make their appearance. If local cover band Last Kid Picked or disco-revival Motor Booty Affair happen to be playing, expect lines out the door and a cover charge.

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