Getting up at the crack of dawn to make the drive to Sunday River for first tracks has never been easy for this skier. Nope, two hours door-to-door in the cold and dark of early morning to make the start of the lifts turning sounds like a nice idea. Until it doesn’t.
These days I seem to wander in to South Ridge in time to make the 10 o’clock chair or thereabouts. Since I rarely stop for lunch, that still means getting plenty of skiing in. But it is awfully nice to catch that first hour of perfect corduroy…
I’ve got a new plan now, though, and my first test run worked pretty darn well.
You see, after these many years of day tripping to the River I finally decided to go up to Bethel the night before and stay over (duh!). That way my lazy slug self could sleep in but still be close enough to the mountain to roll in easily for first tracks.
Now mind you, I don’t give up precious cash for overnight accommodations all that easily, especially when I’m likely to just lay my head down on the pillow for just a few hours each night. So the range of nice but pricey lodging around Bethel doesn’t usually fit my ski bum budget (except for the occasional splurge, of course).
THE BETHEL HOSTEL
What I’d been overlooking was the Bethel Hostel out on U.S. Route 2 just west of town in, well, West Bethel. My wife stayed there several times during some hiking sojourns a couple summers ago and came back with good reports. But then I forgot about the place. Until now.
So, the Bethel Hostel… Inexpensive, comfy bunks, hot showers, kitchen, common room, TV, free wifi, coffee maker, quiet, good company, convenient to the mountain. That’s a lot of good stuff for only $25 for a single person. And a couple can grab a private room for something like $45, an even better deal.
It was pretty quiet when I pulled in that evening. Only one other guest and Dave the owner. Oh, and Finn the dog, a lovable Australian shepherd/border collie mix.
I paid up, got settled in to my room and then hung out with Dave and had a beer while he enjoyed a glass of wine.
Dave Doyle and his wife Debbie have operated the Bethel Hostel for three years now. The first two years they leased the place, but now they own it.
“We always used to drive by here,” said Dave. “We only live two doors down.”
The hostel was built some 20 years ago by Jeff Parsons, who owns Bethel Outdoor Adventures. It’s always been a hostel I guess, but without much fanfare. When it went up for sale, the Doyles took interest.
“We walked in and really liked the whole idea,” Dave said. “We were in a few months later.”
Dave and Debbie love the place, the great times talking to the eclectic mix of guests, the interesting experiences that get shared.
“During ski season we mostly get Boston skiers,” noted Dave. “In the international season we get Germans, Canadians, Chinese, Aussies, Kiwis, you name it.”
“The international season” is hostel-speak for the summer travel season, really from spring through fall.
Dave and Debbie knew a little about real estate, but not much about hostels before getting into the business. Between the couple, they also run a cleaning business, work at a day care, do carpentry and still dabble in real estate. Typical hard-working Mainers who do all they need to do to survive and thrive, which all too often means working hard at several things at once.
“It takes a few irons in the fire to eke out a living,” admitted Dave.
Amen, brother, Amen.
Originally from Connecticut, the two escaped the rat race to come here a few years back.
“We really want to settle in to this, to make this thing profitable,” said Dave. “It really is a great experience meeting all the people.”
Thanks for sharing your story Dave, you’re good people.
As for you folks out there, Sunday River skiers now, but hikers and bicyclists and whatnot come the summer weather, give the Bethel Hostel a good look-see. The place is open all year round, right there in the heart of the mountains with trails galore nearby.
It’s a fun place where you can meet and share travel and adventure talk with people from around the globe for not a lot of money. That right there is pretty priceless.
By the way, the skiing at Sunday River right now is phenomenal (actually, it has been all season). At this rate (with more snow on the way) we should be skiing there right through July 4th! (just kidding, I think, sort of).