NEWRY, Maine — Sunday River opened before Halloween, a testament to its snow-making system. And while that’s news that the sprawling resort normally boasts about at this time of year, there are much bigger doings for the 2013-14 season, when it will expand by 75 acres, with a new world-class terrain park and five new glades, making it the second-largest skiing and riding resort in the East.
The T72, Sunday River’s new 16-acre terrain park, located on North Peak between the 3D and Dream Maker trails, has the added cache of being designed with the help of Snow Park Technologies, which has built over 250 competition courses, including all of those for the Winter X Games, along with Bethel native Simon Dumont, one of the top freeskiers in the country and a hopeful for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
In addition, the resort will be introducing additional tree-skiing, some of which may be new only to the trail map, but new just the same. Many locals and visitors have known about some of the terrain for a while, and now it’s open for the public to discover.
“We want to have as much terrain of all types as possible, and glades are certainly within that,” Sunday River spokeswoman Darcy Morse said. “It was the driving force certainly behind T72, to have a better terrain park, people wanted that, and same goes for glades.
“It was about adding more skiable terrain to our footprint. We’ve already got eight peaks to work with, and within that a little over 2,000 acres, so when we created our boundary-to-boundary policy, which is basically, saying that anywhere within our trails, so long as there isn’t a rope across it, is free access, I think a lot of people started gravitating toward glade skiing and realizing that there were some real hidden gems within that.”
Dumont’s annual event at Sunday River also became an impetus for the expansion, as the Dumont Cup, normally held at the more genteel Rocking Chair terrain park, has grown over the years, welcoming the top freeskiers in the country to the slopes in Newry. This season the March event is primed to explode on the heels of the Sochi games, where freeskiing will make its debut.
“Rocking Chair served its purpose, but we knew we could do better,” Morse said.
“It was just really hard to make a really good course there,” Dumont said, “so we decided to move it over to North Peak and have a little bit steeper run, make it a little easier for my event, and at the same time, give back to the whole East Coast and make a really sick park.”
Dumont, 27, grew up skiing at Sunday River, and has gone on to become one of the most respected skiers in his genre. He’s won gold at the Winter X Games four times, in addition to a bronze medal at the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in 2011. He set the world quarter-pipe height record at Sunday River back in 2008, and with his eye on Sochi, can brag to his colleagues about why they should visit Newry in the weeks following the Olympics.
“We have these standards where we’re traveling the world,” Dumont said. “So, say Colorado, where they have a lot of snow, even if the run is kind of flat, they still have a lot of snow, and we just wanted to create that sort of standard for the East Coast. I don’t think there’s been a really premier event or run or park on the East Coast, and I feel like it was an opportunity to do it and give back to a place that’s given me so much.”
The decision to expand glade options seemed a no-brainer, Morse said, and required little work more than putting up a few trail signs and cutting the routes a bit cleaner.
“We have two new glades that a lot of people already knew about,” Morse said, “and three glades that were well known by locals, and started being discovered by guests, and we made them cleaner and gave them a name. We think they’re a great addition to our trail system.”
So while the map has expanded, the terrain will stay the same for some. For others, it’s an exciting new development at Sunday River, where some of the most popular names in Sochi may be arriving come spring.Eric Wilbur can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.