“Ski the East” say the bumper stickers around New England, as East Coast powderhounds with an inferiority complex push back against the ski-hill dominance of the Rockies and the Cascades. Hey, so this corner of the country doesn’t get the big fluffy powder that you’ll find in Colorado or Montana. But it does have terrain—lots of it—plus a few thought-of-everything mega-resorts and a handful of family hills with heart. Ski country in Maine has seen some big investments in recent years. Both Sunday River and Sugarloaf have widened their footprint, with a monster new terrain park at the former and increasing acreage of sidecountry at the latter. Even little guys like Camden Snow Bowl are getting in on the action, adding snow making equipment and new hospitality facilities. Want to sample the bounty? The $425 Maine Mountain Pass from the Ski Maine Association includes a pair of lift tickets to more than a dozen different hills.
The East Coast’s largest ski area and Maine’s second-highest mountain, Sugarloaf has more than 2,800 feet of vertical and the only snowfield skiing above the tree line east of the Rockies. Lately, the resort’s been clearing acres on neighboring Burnt Mountain, so sidecountry junkies have access to new glades and chutes on that hill’s sculpted northern face.
All about variety with eight different peaks, Sunday River also boasts a spankin’ new terrain park designed by pro freeskier Simon Dumont that features sixteen acres of rails, jumps, and an eighteen-foot superpipe. The après scene is pleasantly mellow, but you can unwind with live music and a local brew at the Matterhorn.
Camden Snow Bowl
Billed (accurately) as the only hill you can ski down while looking at the ocean, Camden Snow Bowl is small and scrappy (read: affordable), but it does have a terrain park, glade skiing, and one of the country’s last toboggan chutes, which every winter hosts the raucous National Toboggan Championships.
With five lifts, 1,150 feet of vertical, and mostly intermediate runs, Abram has its devoted fans and is still rather forgiving with beginners. The hill instituted the state’s first boundary-to-boundary policy years back, and since 2012 it’s been run on a cooperative model by the Mountain Rider’s Alliance, which takes a minimalist approach to resort infrastructure.
A classic family hill, Shawnee Peak is Maine’s oldest continually run ski area, with more than 75 years under its belt. With a vertical drop of just over 1,300 feet, the mountain is accommodating for newbies. Shawnee’s night skiing program sets it apart from the competition—with 19 trails lit up after dark, après happens a little later here.