When you combine nicely groomed trails with a picturesque covered bridge, you have the makings for a great winter adventure. Sunday River’s Outdoor Center has just that combination and 35 kilometers of ski and snowshoe trails to explore.

Although Sunday River is best known for its downhill skiing, the trail system at the newly acquired Outdoor Center is great for cross-country skiers of all abilities and for any length of skiing adventure. There are even a few kilometers of dog-friendly trails, while others are designated only for the center’s dog-sled team.

I enjoy groomed, classic skiing tracks. The two narrow grooves in the snow ensure my older skis point forward without much effort. I just push and glide along the track and my ankles appreciate that at the end of the day.

My kids have skate skis, so they like wider groomed trails for this style of skiing. They have a good sense of balance for lifting one leg and pushing off to skate across the snow on each ski. I don’t have that kind of balance in abundance. Thankfully, these trails offer both classic and skate-style grooming.

After reviewing the map and talking about our trail options with an Outdoor Center staff member, we decided to head to the Artists’ Covered Bridge.

The girls have done a lot of postcard trading and had purchased cards of this bridge but had never seen it in person. They also wanted to see a dog-sled team. We were told the team traveled in the direction of the covered bridge on the dog-sled-only part of this trail system, but it intersected several times with the trails we planned to take.

Once we started on the trail, we almost immediately came upon an intersection. This trail system has markers at each intersection that correspond with a number on the map, so you know where you are. I really appreciated these numbers, because sometimes following only trail names at intersections can be confusing when trails intersect in multiple places.

The map had color-coded trails, so skiers know if the trail they are headed toward is “easier,” “more difficult” or “most difficult.” We stuck to the easier trails that had minimal hills — with the exception of the Gulch trail, since we knew the direction we were headed ensured it was a downhill experience. The trick of the Gulch, which is noted on the back of the trail map, is that it is S-shaped. The kids are comfortable turning while going downhill on their cross-country skis, so we thought this was a doable “more difficult” trail for us.

The girls did great with the hill, but I took a wipeout on the second curve. It reminded me that it is important to read both sides of a trail map. It’s the only way to make an informed decision when you’re unfamiliar with trails. A more difficult rating might not just mean a steeper hill. In this case it also meant being able to turn while going downhill (not a typical novice skier skill).

My fall was minor and much to my children’s chagrin, I could be heard laughing all the way down the hill.

I should note that there are several “easier” trail options to get to the covered bridge that navigate around the Gulch trail. But the one thing you can’t avoid in getting to the covered bridge is a paved road crossing.

The map is clearly marked to identify roads, but I hadn’t noticed that initially. So when we came upon Monkey Brook Road, we realized we had to take off our skis to cross it. It wasn’t a big deal for my older kids, but if you have younger skiers in tow, it might take you a couple of minutes to help with the off-and-on process.

According to my GPS, we covered 2 miles before arriving at the bridge. It was a wonderful place to stop for a snack break and take some photos.

On our trip back to the Outdoor Center, we varied our route and thoroughly enjoyed the nicely groomed trails.

The cross-country skiing trails at Sunday River wind through some beautiful wooded scenery and the trail map was easy to follow. It’s a great way to take a break from the downhill experience for a slower-paced afternoon this winter.

Just be sure to bring along a snack, because you’re going to want to have an excuse to linger at the covered bridge.

Staff Writer Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 791-6334 or at:

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