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A TANK AWAY | BETHEL, MAINE

Winter wonders, New England style

Above: The Bethel Inn Resort offers patrons a fitness facility with a year-round outdoor saltwater pool. Below: The Matterhorn is a classic ski bar featuring alpine memorabilia and live weekend entertainment. Above: The Bethel Inn Resort offers patrons a fitness facility with a year-round outdoor saltwater pool. Below: The Matterhorn is a classic ski bar featuring alpine memorabilia and live weekend entertainment. (Bethel Inn (Above); Fred Field/File)
By Hilary Nangle
Globe Correspondent / March 10, 2010
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This classic New England town tucked in the folds of the White Mountains delivers a wintry reprieve from cold March rains. Other places may be wallowing in mud, but here snow still paints the peaks white, inviting skiers and snowboarders, skaters and snowshoers, to stretch the season. The free Mountain Explorer connects town and mountain; the free Sunday River Trolley circulates around the resort.

Stay
The full-service Bethel Inn Resort (21 Broad St., 800-654-0125, www.bethelinn.com, March room-only rates begin at $80) is a classic New England country inn, with a restaurant and pub and a fitness facility with a year-round outdoor saltwater pool. Cross-country trails start at the back door. It’s adjacent to the skating rink on the village common, and it’s just steps from Main Street shops. The architect-designed Crocker Pond House (917 North Road, 207-836-2027, www.crockerpond.com, rates begin at $125, including full breakfast) is a contemporary shingle-style bed-and-breakfast in the woods 4 miles from downtown. It has a sledding hill out front, snowshoe trails out back, and a pond for skating, weather permitting. Rooms are bathed in natural light, and children are welcome. For slopeside convenience, check into the full-service Grand Summit (1 Grand Circle, 800-543-2754, www.sundayriver.com, per person winter rates begin at $99 midweek, $140 weekend, including breakfast, lift ticket, and clinic), with restaurant, fitness facilities, and outdoor heated pool. The Inn at the Rostay (186 Mayville Road, 888-754-0072, www.rostay.com, winter rates begin at $78 midweek, $110 weekend) is an inn-style motel, with outdoor hot tub and a ski tuning room. Rooms are decorated with country touches, including homemade quilts; hot breakfast is available ($8). For clean, cheap, and convenient, check into the downtown Bethel Village Motel (88 Main St., 800-882-0293, www.bethelvillagemotel.com, rates begin at $65).

Dine
Pair cask-conditioned ales with internationally inspired pub favorites at The Jolly Drayman Pub and Restaurant (150 Mayville Road, 207-824-4717, www.briarleainn.com, $7-$20). Craving beef bulgoki or unagi sashimi? Cho Sun (141 Main St., 207-824-7370, chosunrestaurant.com, $18-25) serves authentic Korean and has a sushi bar. Belly up to the window at BBQ Bob’s Real Pit BBQ (US Route 2, 207-824-4744, www.therealbbqbob.com, $6-$25), the orange trailer next to the Good Food Store, and order barbecue on a bun, a slab of ribs, or the heat-wave chili; dress for the elements or take it away, as there is no indoor seating. For cheap eats at any meal, snag a table at the Crossroads Diner & Deli (24 Mayville Road, 207-824-3673, www.crossroadsdiner.net, breakfast begins at $1.99, Blue Plate dinner specials at $7.99). The Bakery and Marketplace (119 and 125 Main St., 207-824-6386, www.cafedicocoa.com) is a must for fabulous sweets, good salads, and hot lunches with vegan options. Through March, board Sunday River’s chondola for Dining at the Peak (207-824-5076, www.sundayriver.com, $49.50).

During the day
Bethel excels at winter outdoors, and you don’t even have to leave downtown. Festival Plaza (40 Cross St.) is home to an ice-skating rink, sledding hill, and snow maze; all are open daily and free, conditions permitting. Snowshoe or cross-country ski on 25 miles of groomed and tracked trails at Bethel Nordic Ski Center (21 Broad St., 207-834-6276, www.caribourecreation.com, $14-18) or along the 34 miles at Carter’s XC Ski Center (786 Intervale Road, 207-824-3880, www.cartersxcski.com, $14 adult). The big daddy of winter fun is Sunday River Ski Resort (800-524-2754, www.sundayriver.com), which sprawls over eight interconnected peaks. There are skiing and snowboarding ($77 adult at window), of course, but also there are a lighted, lift-serviced snowtubing park ($3-$12) and a lighted ice-skating rink (free, skate rentals available). Book in advance if you want to howl with the huskies nearby on a fully outfitted, midweek dog-sledding day trip, complete with campfire lunch, with Mahoosuc Guide Service (1513 Bear River Road, Newry, 207-824-2073, www.mahoosuc.com, $250). Prefer motorized transport? Sun Valley Sports (129 Sunday River Road, 877-851-7353, www.sunvalleysports.com) offers half-day guided snowmobile tours ($150 single, $175 double). And while shopping isn’t Bethel’s forte, it does have some nice options. Go into Ruthie’s (88 Main, St., 207-824-2989, www.ruthiesboutique.com) for women’s fashions and Linda Clifford (91 Main St., 877-607-7787, www.lindaclifford.com) for Scottish and Irish imports. Purchase fudge and home-state finds at Maine Line Products (23 Main St., 207-875-2522, www.mainelineproducts.com). At Mt. Mann Jewelers (57 Main St. 207-824-3030, www.mtmann.com), kids can be rockhounds in the Crystal Cave, while adults browse tourmaline and other gems. Shop for woolens and take a farm tour at Sunday River Alpacas (471 Flat Road, 207-890-3148, www.sundayriveralpacas.com). If the Bethel Historical Society (10-14 Broad St., 800-824-2910, www.bethelhistorical.org) is open, view the “History of Skiing in the Western Mountains’’ exhibit.

After dark
For après-ski action, slide into the Foggy Goggle (Sunday River Road, 207-824-5056 x4356) at Sunday River. On the access road, rock at the Matterhorn (292 Sunday River Road, 207-824-6836, www.matterhornskibar.com) a classic ski bar accented with cool alpine memorabilia and featuring live weekend entertainment. In-town hot spots are The Jolly Drayman and Sud’s Pub (151 Main St., 207-824-6558, www.sudburyinn.com/thesudspub.html); on Thursday nights, Sud’s hosts Hoot Night, an open-mike tradition since 1987. Performers keep everything G-rated for Sunday River’s Black Diamond Family Entertainment series (800-542-2SKI, www.sundayriver.com, $4-$6 ages 5-12, $6-$8 ages 13 and older). Sunday River’s Bud Light Entertainment series brings live music to the mountain on Saturday nights.

Hilary Nangle can be reached at www.HilaryNangle.com.

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