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Shannon Bryan

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Posted: July 14, 2015

Summer at the ski areas: Ropes courses, mountain biking & glacial caves at Maine & NH ski mountains

Written by: Shannon Bryan

Summer is not the time of year we think about Maine’s ski mountains. Even those of us who are fond of winter sports still like to spend a few months forgetting winter altogether (you know, to make up for those months when it seems like winter has no end), which means places like Sunday River and Sugarloaf are essentially blocked from our thoughts until well after Halloween.

Because why would we want to go to a ski area during the summer?

I’ll tell you why: Ropes courses, ziplines, mountain biking, yurts, gondolas, glacial caves, trails, bungee trampolines, paddleboarding, Segway tours, archery and – ah yes – climbable spider webs.

Turns out, there’s quite a bit happening at some of Maine and New Hampshire’s larger ski areas over the summer. We can enjoy the mountains, lifts and trails even without the snow (and without the need for toe warmers).

Here’s what’s happening this summer at some of Maine and New Hampshire’s ski mountains (besides golf):

The gondola skyride, left, ziplines and glacial caves. Photos courtesy Loon Mountain

The gondola skyride, left, ziplines and glacial caves. Photos courtesy Loon Mountain

Loon Mountain, Lincoln, NH

Loon Mountain in New Hampshire has a lot going on, and none of it requires snow. There’s the Aerial Forest Adventure Park, for starters, which boasts five separate courses comprised of trapeze bridges, ladders, suspension bridges, tightrope walks, chain loops, ziplines and more. There’s a range of difficulty levels, so if you’re looking for a real challenge, you’ll find it (adult: $51, ages 7-12: $41). You can also stick with just the zipline for a 750-foot ride over the Pemigewasset River and back ($26). They have a climbing wall, bungee trampoline, inflatable bounce house and slides and a 30-foot-tall spider web that the kids can climb on (and you, maybe, if you weigh less than 180 pounds). Or rent bicycles for a leisurely ride.

But the gondola skyride at Loon really got our attention. It’s the longest scenic gondola ride in the state, carrying riders up to the 2,733-foot mountain summit. Once there, you can take in incredible views of the White Mountains, walk the nature trail and climb the observation tower for 360-degree views. Even cooler, there are 50,000-year-old glacial caves up there. These natural caves have giant boulders you can crawl between as well as boardwalks and steps for you to follow and explore. Go ahead, veer off and shimmy through cave cracks and see what you can find. (If there are kids in your group, pick up a treasure map at the base area. Kids can follow clues all over the peak and in the caves and even find “Lost Loon Gold” to take home). (Skyride ticket is $17 for adults, $12 for ages 6-12, $15 for seniors, free for children 5 and under).

The Summit Cafe is also open all summer with a Caribbean themed menu of jerk chicken, reggae rolls and the like (and rum punch for the grownups).

For all of Loon’s summer activities, prices and more information: www.loonmtn.com/experience/summer-activities

Loon Mountain
60 Loon Mountain Rd, Lincoln, NH | www.loonmtn.com | 603-745-8111
The Adventure Center, Gondola Skyrides and Summit Adventures at Loon Mountain are open daily from July 1 – Aug. 31 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you go on a Sunday, hit the Summit Sunday Omelet Bar!


Paddleboarding and archery Discovery Schools with L.L.Bean, left, and on the mountain trails with mountain bikes. Photos courtesy Sunday River

Paddleboarding and archery Discovery Schools with L.L.Bean, left, and on the mountain trails with mountain bikes. Photos courtesy Sunday River

Sunday River, Newry, ME

Most of us are familiar with Sunday River’s ski school (maybe you’ve taken a lesson there. Or you’re at least aware you could take a lesson there), but over the summer, we can learn a bunch of non-snow-related things at Sunday River, like how to mountain bike, paddleboard and use a bow and arrow (but not at the same time, although that would be cool).

The ski area teamed up with L.L.Bean again this summer to offer Outdoor Discovery Schools at the mountain. You can take an Archery Discovery Course ($25), Kayaking Discovery Course ($25) or Stand-Up Paddleboarding Discovery Course ($25) and learn the nuances of a new sport. Or opt for a three-hour kayak or paddleboard tour ($69).

If you’re interested in taking to the trails on a mountain bike, but you’ve never been on a mountain bike/are still really new to the sport/want to improve your skills, sign up for Sunday River’s Mountain Bike School. A 90-minute clinic ($69 for adults, $59 for ages 12 and younger) includes the bike and other equipment and will take you from “crashing to crushing in no time.” More experienced riders can buy a day ticket ($29 for adults, $18 for ages 12 and younger) and use the Chondola lift to access the trail network.

And of course, we can’t forget the six-zipline course (complete with twin zip finale), bungee trampoline, scenic lift rides, climbing wall and disc golf.)

For all of Sunday River’s summer activities, prices and more information: www.sundayriver.com/events-and-activities/activity-guide

Sunday River
15 S Ridge Rd, Newry, ME | www.sundayriver.com | 800.543.2754
L.L.Bean courses and tours are available at Sunday River Monday-Thursday through August 27. The Sunday River adventures are available Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from June 25 to Sept. 6.


Sugarloaf, Carrabassett Valley, ME

When it comes to summer at Sugarloaf, it’s all happening at The Outpost. The Outpost (located on the backside of the hotel at Sugarloaf) is the hub for all the goings on at the mountain, like scenic chairlift rides ($14 adults, under 5 free), a six-zipline course ($42) and kayak and paddleboard rentals.

It’s also where to go for a Segway tour. Yep. Segways! You know, those two-wheeled people movers that look kind of weird and are also a ton of fun? Sugarloaf has a fleet of them and you can climb on, get some coaching (you’re going to need the coaching – Segways are cool but they take some getting used to) and take the nifty thing off-road. Get a 20-minute coaching session for $20 or take a 90-minute guided tour on the Sugarloaf trail system for $59.

For all of Sugarloaf’s summer activities, prices and more information: sugarloaf.com/activities-and-nightlife/outpost

Sugarloaf Outpost Adventure Center
5092 Access Road, Carrabassett Valley, ME | sugarloaf.com | 207-237-6875
Scenic lifts rides will be available Saturdays and Sundays only from 10am-5pm beginning July 4. Segway tours and ziplines available daily through October 12. Reservations are strongly encouraged. The Outpost is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Oct. 12.


The Aerial Treetop Adventure Course at Gunstock. Shannon Bryan photos

The Aerial Treetop Adventure Course at Gunstock. Shannon Bryan photos

Gunstock, Gilford, NH

Sun’s out, guns out at Gunstock! Summer activities on the mountain include scenic lift rides, Segway tours, zipline tours, bungee jumper, spider climber and BIg Air Bag Launch Ramp. New in 2015, summer tubing AND the chance to do a “stunt jump” from a 12-foot or 20-foot platform onto a Zero Shock Stunt Bag. There’s also a ton more, like the slackline park, water wars area (shoot water balloons at your little brother!) plus paddle boards, kayaks and bike rentals. (Buy a Discovery Pass for $39 a person and you can have access to all this stuff!)

The Aerial Treetop Adventure Course at Gunstock is also an incredible challenge (admission: I’ve done it twice and didn’t complete all five courses either time).

Tucked into the trees not far from Gunstock’s base lodge, the ropes course consists of 91 different challenges – from bridges and swings to wooden barrels and cargo nets. And let’s not forget the zip lines. The adult course has five levels, and each level gets a little higher and a little harder. The green course starts at a comfortable 13 feet off the ground. The final course – black – is 50 feet up. Might not sound that high, but trust me, it’s up there. There’s a low-to-the-ground Explorer Course for kids, too, which includes a climbing wall, foot bridges, barrels, nets, suspended ladders and a squeal-inducing 80-foot zip line. But that grownup version? It’s a challenge. The Aerial Treetop Adventure costs $55 for adults (ages 12 and up) for tours at 10 a.m. and after, only $45 for tours at 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and $25 for the kids Explorer Course (ages 6-11) for tours at 10 a.m. and after, only $20 for tours at 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

Read more: Be courageous on the ropes course: Aerial Treetop Adventures at Gunstock, NH

For all of Gunstock’s summer activities, prices and more information: www.gunstock.com/summer/rates-packages

Gunstock Mountain Resort
719 Cherry Valley Road, Gilford, NH | www.gunstock.com | 603-293-4341
Gunstock is open daily through Sept. 7. Zip tours and ATA tours available 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every half hour, Segway tours 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. hourly, Discover Zone 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and scenic lift rides 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.


The Northridge yurt on Pleasant Mountain. Photo courtesy Shawnee Peak

The Northridge yurt on Pleasant Mountain. Photo courtesy Shawnee Peak

Shawnee Peak

Pleasant Mountain is a great place to hike in the summer. That alone is a good reason to head over to the Shawnee Peak area. But also worth mentioning: You can rent a yurt or cabin on Pleasant Mountain, too! The Northridge Yurt sleeps 4 in two bunk beds and Tuckerman’s Cabin sleeps 6 in two bunk beds and a double futon. Cost is $150 a night plus + tax and security.

For reservations or more information: www.shawneepeak.com/dining/lodging/pleasant-mountain-cabins/ or lodging@shawneepeak.com or call 207-647-8444 ext. 13.

Shawnee Peak
119 Mountain Rd, Bridgton, ME | www.shawneepeak.com | 207-647-8444

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