While it feels too short for most Mainers (and many visitors), summer is arduously long for skiers. We’re nearing the deepest point of the canyon, now – the largest number of days between the end of the last season and the start of the next. Like many skiers, I’m diving on any tidbit of snowsports-related news with vigor. So imagine my delight when I received not one but two bulletins from Maine ski resorts this week. One details developments that skiers can look forward to enjoying this winter, and the other offers new programs that locals and visitors can utilize this summer.

On Monday, Bethel’s Sunday River Resort announced a new partnership with Freeport retailer L.L. Bean. The resort is now offering programs in the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools. The Discovery Schools, previously offered at many of the company’s retail outlets, guide customers on trips and tours throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic. They’re a great showcase of the outdoors here in the Northeast and, of course, an excuse for the retailer to show off its equipment. The previously-offered excursions range from kayaking and biking to archery and clay shooting.

The initial slate of activities at Sunday River includes kayaking, fly-casting, hiking, stand-up paddleboarding, archery and geocaching. The activities all vary in price in a range that’s likely familiar to anyone who’s ever bought tickets at a ski resort like Sunday River before – about $49 a person on the cheaper end, and $69 on the more expensive end. They also vary in duration, from about two to three hours.

The programs run Monday through Thursday, and on Saturday. While all the Outdoor Discovery Schools are based out of Sunday River’s Grand Summit Hotel (near the base of White Cap), more information and registration are available through llbean.com.

The resort’s press release also ran down the range of other summer activities at Sunday River – something I tend to forget during the offseason. Scenic lift rides, zipline rides, a bungee trampoline, a climbing wall and disc golf are all options, as are 20 miles of trails in the Sunday River Bike Park. On the more leisurely side, there’s also the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Sunday River Golf Club. Since opening in 2005, the course has received rave reviews – reviews rivaling those of the august Sugarloaf Golf Club in Carrabassett Valley.

Speaking of Sugarloaf, a bulletin from the resort this week detailed summer happenings on its slopes. While Sunday River detailed summer activities in Newry, Sugarloaf turned its eyes toward the next ski season.

Per the press release, this summer sees across-the-board improvements, including “upgrades to its snowmaking system, a new state-of-the-art ski tuning machine, continued terrain expansion, and numerous resort and village enhancements.”

For many skiers, the real meat of the update is in improvements to snowmaking, which include 30 to 40 low-energy Impulse snowguns – the same guns that have improved snowmaking (and, it should be noted, cut resort costs) at Sunday River and Sugarloaf over the last few seasons. Half the guns will go on Sugarloaf terrain park Haywire, while the rest will be mounted on sleds that can be carted around the mountain at will. More than a mile of snowmaking pipe in Whiffletree is being added, with hopes of an earlier snowmaking window on the east side.

(Thanks to the press release, I also learned that Sugarloaf’s Danny Barker has the title “Director of Snow Surfaces,” which joins the hallowed halls of dream jobs.)

Other on-hill improvements include a new groomer and continued expansion of Burnt Mountain terrain, while the village will see a new coat of paint (literally), cosmetic improvements and a $180,000 Wintersteiger Mercury Tuning machine in the shop.

While these improvements have me salivating for winter, they remind me that like Sunday River, Sugarloaf has plenty of attractions to draw summer visitors. The Outpost, now open seven days a week, is advertised as the mountain’s “hub for summertime adventure in the western mountains.” It’s the starting point for many of the same activities as Sunday River – zipline tours, scenic lift rides, and kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard rentals. And, of course, there’s Sugarloaf’s legendary 18-hole golf course to keep visitors busy.

Unique to Sugarloaf are Segway Tours. The burly Segway x2 – the off-road version of the Segway Personal Transport – allows the resort to take visitors on a guided tour of the Sugarloaf trail system. While the Segway puts visitors at ground level, it’s a wholly unique experience compared to both hiking and skiing.

Despite a wide variety of secluded hiking trails in Maine, I’m a sucker for visiting ski areas during the summer. It’s not only a chance to stoke my desire to ski during the summer, but a different way to see the rugged skeleton under ski areas, which look totally alien during this time of year. Whether on a guided L.L. Bean Adventure, on a Segway or on your own, it’s a worthwhile reason to visit the western mountains.

Josh Christie is a freelance writer and lifetime outdoors enthusiast. He shares column space in Outdoors with his father, John Christie. Josh can be contacted at:

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