300 Santas and Me at Sunday River
by Paul Maraschiello

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Sunday River in Maine was the 1st ski area to open in the east and I was anxious to start the ski season off at this world-class ski area. I caught a flight to Manchester and picked up a car and started the 3-hour drive to Bethel, Maine. As I drive north, it started to snow . . . a good sign. I checked into the Summit Hotel and was amazed at how few cars were in the parking lot. It looked like early season was a GREAT time to book a ski trip to Sunday River.



I headed to the slope and there was almost no liftline. I found out that this weekend was the 8th Annual event raising money for local toy drive and there was going to be 300 skiers in Santa suits raising money for charity. The Santas donated a total $2,260 to charity and earned three free days of skiing and riding in the process at the 8th annual Santa Sunday at Sunday River.



The event was held on the Broadway trail, which was one of the 42 open trails on Sunday at Sunday River. Cold temperatures had allowed the resort to expand terrain onto five mountain areas with snowmakers adding more trails the next day.



There was an approaching snowstorm that was likely to bring between one and two feet of snow to the region according to forecasts. I wound up enjoying some of the best early season conditions I had experienced in many years thanks to extensive snowmaking at Sunday River. I think that Sunday River is one of the best things Les Otten, the former America Ski Company President ever accomplished.

Participants in this festive event donned St. Nick's attire in order to receive a free day of skiing or riding, as well as vouchers for two additional days. They were also required to donate a minimum of $10 toward the Bethel Rotary Club's annual Christmas drive, which will be used to purchase gifts for children in the region. Any time you can donate $10 to help the poor AND get three FREE ski passes is GREAT as far as I'm concerned.



It was fun to see hundreds of Santas riding up the chair together and coming down the mountain. They reserved the chairlift to get them all up the mountain, so they could all come down at once and it was really fun to see. The money that they raised went to the Bethel Rotary Club which provides humanitarian service and builds goodwill and peace in the world. I was a social worker for many years in New England and know how important charitable groups are to those less fortunate than we are.



I had a really great time at Sunday River. The lift lines were small and I skied almost all the trails that they had opened and did pretty good for my first time on the snow for this season. The trails all had good coverage and I even had a chance to ski some un-tracked snow, do a few bumps and get in some high-speed cruising.



I rode up the chairlift with Santa and asked him if he could give me the names of a few "older" girls who had been very, very bad. Unfortunately, his list is confidential. Can't blame me for trying.

As usual, my ski experience at Sunday River was great. I met a few interesting skiers at happy hour and had fun talking about skiing. There is a friendly crew of "regulars" at Sunday River and everyone I met on the chair, in the bars and in the restaurants were very friendly.



With the high cost of gas and the inexpensive air prices, flying to Manchester and renting a car is more affordable than driving (and spending 12 hours on the road) to New England. Keep your eyes open for cheap flights and airline sales and book a trip to Sunday River. The snow is great, terrain extensive and there are trails for skiers of every ability. If you run into Santa, tell him that you've been good boy. If you've been a really BAD girl, e-mail me your phone number (Offer only good for girls over the age of 21).

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