Bethel, Maine and Sunday River Skiing

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Pilots who love to ski often daydream about combining their passions. What could be more alluring than flying to a fantastic ski resort within minutes of an airport? If you live in the northeast U.S., stop dreaming and start planning because it is a reality and well within your range.

Pilots who love to ski often daydream about combining their passions. What could be more alluring than flying to a fantastic ski resort within minutes of an airport? Stop dreaming and start planning because it is a reality and well within your range. However, before reading on, you must promise not to tell everyone at your home base about this little known winter wonderland—we wouldn't want to lose our parking spot in paradise.

Colonel Dyke Field

Turning Final
Turning final to
Colonel Dyke Field (0B1).

The airport is Colonel Dyke (0B1), and it is only a few minutes from the Sunday River Ski Resort in Maine. Named after army colonel Sid Dyke who opened a flying school here in the 50s, 0B1 is nestled against the New Hampshire border, two miles northwest of Bethel, Maine at N 44° 25.50', W 070° 48.47'. The flight up from Long Island takes you past Mt. Washington, which is breathtaking but known for its harsh weather. Be sure your mountain flying skills are really sharp before attempting a close-up view.

The runway 14-32 is 3150 x 60, made of asphalt and is well maintained. When landing, note that there are trees at either end of the runway and occasional high winds in the valley. The southeast approach is less mountainous, making it preferable if the wind cooperates.

For those who visited Colonel Dyke Field when it was unattended, you are in for a pleasant surprise. This municipal airport has a new ramp thanks to state and town funding. In the next few years there will be even more improvements. The airport does not have an instrument approach, but it is hoped there will be a GPS approach by next year. A taxiway and new t-hangars will be added, and by the year 2000, the field will have lighting. With all this modernization let's hope they keep the outhouse. When the temperature drops to 10°, it is a clear reminder that you are in rural Maine!

The best addition to Colonel Dyke Airport is Bethel Air Service which mans the field daily. Three years ago Dan Bilodeau and Steve Whitney opened the FBO. This once unattended field now offers a host of services including fuel. Currently 100LL is $2.10, Jet A is $1.90 (five cents less for cash), and Mogas is available. VISA, MasterCard, AVFUEL and Multiserve credit cards are accepted. Should the weather require, it's nice to know that Bethel Air Service also offers preheating, de-icing and charter flights. Steve is a licensed mechanic, so there is light maintenance available on the field. Dave Rugoletti runs the flight school.

Update: September 2002

Bethel Air Service may no longer be in operation. The field appears to be called Bethel Regional Airport, operated by the Town of Bethel. Check this website for further information, and be sure to call ahead to the field before flying in.

Transportation

Transportation from the airport to the mountain is only $5.00 ($3.00 for each additional person). Call Unicom on 122.9 about fifteen miles out to request a cab. Our favorite is Bethel Express.

If you are only in for the day, be sure to arrange your return trip to the field in time to preflight and be on your way before sunset. There is no runway lighting.

The FBO has two courtesy cars available for short trips into town or for lunch. If you want to explore the Bethel area further, call Bethel Air Service for a rental car. Reserve early because only a few cars are available. Last year minivans were rented at $35.00 per day.

Sunday River Ski Area

Phenomenal Skiing
Sunday River Skiing is phenomenal.
(Photo: Sunday River Ski Area.)

Sunday River has more to proffer than anyone could hope for. The skiing, lodging and dining are all phenomenal—not to mention an airport close by!

Sunday River hosts many special events each season. A few of the highlights from the '96-'97 season will include: The River Ride Board Feast (Major league snowboard competition), Ski Telemark World Cup Classic, Budweiser's Aerial Assault and the Bust 'N Burn-Legends of Freestyle mogul party. Check the schedule for these and other exciting upcoming events.

Sunday River Trails
Sunday River offers 121 trails on 645 acres.
(Photo: Sharon McNeill/Sunday River.)

Whether you're a beginner or diehard expert, you'll find plenty of challenging terrain. There are eight interconnected mountain peaks at Sunday River that offer 121 trails on 645 acres. The vertical rise is 2340 feet. The runs seem to go on forever, and the views of the White Mountain National Forest truly give credence to the term God's Country. The newest peak of the mountain chain is known as Oz, and I promise, you'll know you are not in Kansas as you plunge down! If you are an adroit skier, try White Heat, the widest, steepest, longest run on the east coast.

Sunday River covers over ninety percent of their trails with snowmaking and is rated by Ski Magazine (and my friends) as having the best quality snow in the East. In fact, Sunday River is the only eastern ski resort that made Ski Magazine's top ten list. Their extensive snowmaking insures that the resort opens by early October and keeps the season going into May. Mark your calendar for free skiing on May 1, Ski Maynia Day!

Remember that January and February in Maine are quite cold and require proper protective clothing. You can call Sunday River for snow reports, or get information from their web page. See the information section at the end of this article.

Regardless of your ability, the Perfect Turn Skier Development Program can enhance your skiing. Lessons are available for all ages and abilities. They even have a guaranteed "learn-to-ski-in-a-day" program for beginners and special programs for the handicapped. The Perfect Kids Program takes children as young as four years old. For younger children, there is a fabulous nursery and day care center.

The more you ski at Sunday River (or any affiliated mountain, including Sugarloaf, Sugarbush, Killington, Mt. Snow, Haystack & Attitash Bear Peak) the more you ski free. Earn points towards free time on the slopes with the Edge Frequent Skier Program. Ask for your Edge card and details on your first trip—it's free!

Restaurants

Slope side food prices at resorts can be a little steep (no pun intended), but the convenience and views from the lodges certainly offset the cost. The lodge food at Sunday River is very good and there are numerous ski-in places to eat. My favorite lunch spot on the slopes is North Peak Lodge.

After a long day of skiing, a visit to the Sunday River Brewing Co. is necessary for anyone who appreciates finely brewed ales (provided you're not heading home afterward). They also have a full menu.

Bumps! Pub in the White Cap base lodge is a lively place for apres ski and night time entertainment. A large variety of pub style food is served at lunch and dinner.

Lodging

The proximity and easy access of the airport make Sunday River a great candidate for day or overnight trips. Lodging, while abundant, still requires reservations.

Besides slope side lodging, there are many country inns, motels, and bed & breakfasts in and around town. Bethel has an area reservation service that you can call for booking. The following listing represents a few of the many choices available.

The Sudbury Inn has seventeen guest rooms with private baths, two dining rooms and a tavern with live entertainment Thursday through Sunday. If you stay here you can begin your evening with a romantic fireside dinner and finish off by dancing the night away. Winter room rates are from $90.00 to $150.00 double occupancy.

The Chapman Inn is located downtown in the heart of the National Historic District. The Inn has nine guest rooms, most with private baths and some with kitchens. Private saunas are available, too. The cozy living room has a fireplace and there is a game room. A 24 bed dormitory is available for larger groups. Bring along your skates if you stay here; there's ice skating out the front door. Winter rates are from $55.00 to $95.00 for double occupancy and include a full breakfast. Dormitory rates are $25.00 per person. Summer rates are less.

The Bethel Inn & Country Club is a traditional New England inn with two hundred acres of resort activities. Fireplaces, casual and fine candlelit dining in a relaxed atmosphere keep guests coming back year after year. The inn provides a shuttle service to Sunday River, which is only ten minutes away. The Bethel Inn offers extensive cross country skiing right out the back door. They have rentals and lessons, too.

The Norseman Inn is a two hundred year old inn, and it is just 1/4 mile from the airport. There is a motel here with 22 rooms, all with private baths. The inn has nine rooms, five of which have private baths. Enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast by the inn's fireplace. Rooms are from $45.00 to $118.00 per night.

The Briar Lea Bed and Breakfast is five miles from the mountain. Gary and Carol Brearley own the B&B which is set in a 150 year old Georgian farm house. There is a large, comfortable living room to relax in and enjoy the open hearth fireplace. All rooms have private baths. The hosts serve a buffet breakfast each morning. The folks at Briar Lea will be happy to pick up guests at Colonel Dyke Field. Winter rates range from $67.00 to $89.00 per room.

Abbott House (B&B) is set in a two hundred year old New England cape on a hillside just outside of town. Its small size offers a unique charm. There are four guest rooms that share two baths. The inn keepers, Joe and Penny, serve a hearty breakfast each morning. Room service is available on request for those who prefer to sleep in! Throughout the year the room rate is $65.00 per couple.

For anyone in your group who does not savor the thought of strapping boards on their feet and heading downhill, the area has numerous other winter activities including snow shoeing, cross country skiing and snowmobiling.

Snow shoeing is a popular way to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the White Mountain National Forest. It is an invigorating activity for people of all ages. Most areas of the National Forest are open to snow shoeing. Contact the district ranger for more information on trail access, local maps and grooming.

Cross country skiing is a very popular way to enjoy the great outdoors. The Bethel area has over one hundred kilometers of cross-country ski trails and unlimited back country skiing. There are four cross country ski centers in Bethel.

Carter's Cross Country Ski Center in Bethel is known to have one of the best equipped ski shops in the area. Rentals and lessons are also available.

Lastly, the Telemark Inn offers the ultimate in wilderness skiing, and they issue only fifteen trail passes a day. Ever heard of ski joring? Popular in Europe, the Telemark Inn is the first place in the U.S. to offer this sport. The skier is pulled by huskies. Whether you try this new sport or stick with the more traditional cross country skiing, you will enjoy the 360 acres of wilderness that the Telemark Inn shares with guests.

The mountains of Maine offer unbounded opportunities for exploration. The most exhilarating way to penetrate the forest is by snowmobile. The Bethel area has endless miles of trails to revel. The trails connect to the International Trail System which goes into the northern United States and Canada. Sun Valley Sports on the Sunday River Road rents snowmobiles and offers tours of all types.

Colonel Dyke Airport also offers access to many non-winter activities including hiking, fishing, canoeing, horseback riding, road & mountain biking, golfing, white water rafting and what the locals call rock hounding—the collecting of minerals and gems. The area is one of the worlds richest source of minerals and gems, including amethyst, aquamarine, tourmaline, topaz, beryl crystals and mica.

Regardless of what activity or season draws you to Bethel, I'm sure you'll come back time and again.

Bethel Information

Area Code: 207
Zip Code: 04217
Bethel Air Service: 824-4321
Bethel Chamber of Commerce: 824-2282
Bethel Express: (Cab): 824-4646
Sunday River Ski Area Snow Conditions: 824-5200

Restaurants

The Bethel Inn & Country Club: 824-2175
Bumps! Pub: 424-3000
The Matterhorn: 824-6836
North Peak Lodge: 824-3000
The Sudbury Inn: 824-2174 or (800) 395-7837
Sunday River Brewing Co.: 824-4253

Lodging

Bethel Area Reservations: (800) 430-0770 ext. 600
Sunday River Resort Reservations: (800) 543-2754
Abbott House (B&B): 824-7600
The Bethel Inn & Country Club: 824-2175
The Briar Lea Bed and Breakfast: 824-4717
The Chapman Inn: 824-2657
The Norseman Inn: 824-2002
The Snow Cap Inn: 824-7669
The Sudbury Inn: 824-2174 or (800) 395-7837
Summit Hotel & Conference Center: 824-3500

Hiking And Snowshoeing

National Park District Ranger: 824-2134
The Bethel Inn and Country Club: 824-2175
Carter's Cross Country Ski Center: 539-4848
The Sunday River Inn: 824-2410
Telemark Inn: 836-2703
Sun Valley Sports: 824-7553
Downeast Whitewater Center: (800) 677-7238
North Country Rivers: (800) 348-8871.