8 peaks, snowmaking, grooming, big, glades (when open), lifts, views, moderate climate, far from NYC
low vertical, low natural snowfall, certain lifts crowded, harder to reach, cheap marketing, bland trails
If you like steep groomers, you will be at home here. The snowmaking is so extensive here that they often open in October. Up to 90 trails are immaculately groomed each night, but there are still enough trails left alone. There are some great bump runs too, as well as some great glades.
The Peaks, from east to west:
White Cap: This is the farthest east peak. A lot of the challenging terrain is here. There is White Heat, the marquee trail on White cap: steep, but groomed, so not too challenging. There is shockwave, which is more interesting and bumped up. There are easier trails at the bottom. All of the chairs here are slow quads. The glades at the summit of white cap are tough. One of two slopeside hotels is here, and White Cap has its own base lodge.
Locke: This peak, the first at Sunday river, is next in line. It is serviced by a slow triple accessing Intermediate and advanced terrain, and is the first peak to open, usually in October. T2 (black, should be blue), Sunday punch (blue), and Bim's Whim (natural, black) run from the top. Near the bottom are some great wide open cruisers, but are often closed for racing. The triple starts out at the Barker Base lodge.
Barker Mt: This peak is serviced by a high speed quad departing from the Barker base lodge. Some cruisers, such as lazy river, ecstasy, and 3 mile trail are accessed, as well as Agony (under the lift, double fall line, steep, bumped), Top gun (steep, bumped) and Right Stuff (steep groomer)--all great fun. Also home to rocking chair, a big terrain park.
South Ridge/North Peak: Serviced by the famous Chondola, two high speed quads, and some surface lifts, this is the primary beginner area of the mountain. All abilities are catered to here, from toughy Northern Exposure, to the beginner areas. There is a base lodge at the bottom, as well as a lodge at the top of North Peak, at the top of the Chondola. Night Skiing is based here. There are some smaller parks here. This area is often crowded, and can be skipped without missing too much.
Spruce Peak: Right above North peak, serviced by a slow triple. There are two great wide open cruisers from the top, American Express and Risky Business, as well as a bump run Downdraft, and access to the other western peaks. This peak gets a sunny, southern exposure, giving it great soft snow.
Aurora Peak: At the bottom, you will find a basin with three lifts: a triple back up to North Peak, the main fixed grip quad to the Aurora summit, and a double which will bring you sideways over to Jordan Bowl. At the top of the quad, you will find uncrowded trails for all abilities: Northern Lights is a great cruiser, and there are also the steeps of Vortex and Black Hole. Some great glades are here, such as celestial.
Oz: This, along with White Cap, is the other challenging peak. However, Oz is slightly different from White Cap: there is no grooming here, there are trees dotting wide open, steep bowls, and the glades are great here, all serviced by a fixed-grip quad. This is the highest peak at the resort. This is simply the place to be on a pow day (which, by the way, don't occur very often here).
Jordan Bowl: This is the farthest west peak at Sunday River. Trails for all abilities can be found here, though the trail ratings tend to be more conservative here (a blue here is harder than a blue in the eastern parts of the resort). There is Lollapalooza, a great cruiser (green) that probably should be a blue. This trail is used to access the other slopeside hotel. There are also two other blues with some roller-coaster like dips and drops. Off of Lollapalooza is a great glade, Blind Ambition, which is a great first glade to try, and often overlooked on powder days. Under the high speed quad servicing Jordan Bowl is a nasty double black, Caramba, which is always studded with bumps, rocks, and blue ice. Not the best place to be if it hasn't snowed for a while, and one of the toughest trails at the resort. Another glade, Wizard's Gulch, starts from one of the blues, cuts across Caramba; one of the tougher glades here.
Hint: The three western peaks, Aurora, Oz, and Jordan, seem to accumulate more snow than the other peaks
As you can see, there is a lot of variety here.
The marketing department claims 2340 ft vertical, but they took the highest peak and the lowest base area. The only way to ski it at once is a flat green, so 2340 shouldn't be true. The most real vertical that can be skied at once is around 1700, making the runs short. They only get about 150in of natural snow each year, which is a shame, considering the quality of glades and natural terrain. Though not as crowded as some southern vermont resorts, due to it being out of reach from New Yorkers, Sunday River is popular with Bostonians, so certain lifts (the high speed lifts in general) can be crowded. It is hard to reach, which is good and bad for obvious reasons. The trails are pretty wide, not many of the classic new england trails. On the other hand, the wide trails, size of the place, and unique trees give a feeling that you are skiing out west. The marketing of the mountain is very cheap. The snow reports never are honest (they never say it if it's raining, and only say how many slopes are open and groomed. They will never tell you if it's bad or if there are wind holds, just "Make your plans to visit us this weekend." There is the aforementioned vertical issue, and also the trail count is inflated. For example, they call a 50ft gap between two adjacent trails a trail. The long trail from the top of spruce to the bottom of Jordan is divided into four different names, and each one counts as a trail, in addition to all of the uppers, middles, and lowers. It's sickening. If you're looking for backcountry or unmarked glades, this is not the place for it: stick to the marked runs. Don't try to ski spruce cliffs. There are some short steep shots here, but nothing extremely thrilling, and, as mentioned before, the runs are short due to low vertical.
Overall, this is a great resort, and certainly good if you don't feel like dealing with New Yorkers in southern Vermont. However, the ski area is overall not as impressive as sister Sugarloaf or counterparts in VT