NEWRY — Fifty years ago Saturday, the first trails at what was to become the Sunday River Ski Resort were opened. This weekend, the resort is planning several events to commemorate the half-century milestone.

A T-bar installed on Vernon Street in Bethel in 1947 inspired a group of residents to set up a larger resort. After choosing Barker Mountain for the site, the Sunday River Skiway Association was organized in April 1958. The first resort was built for $90,000, of which $10,000 was contributed by Gould Academy. The resort opened under the name Sunday River Skiway on Dec. 19, 1959.

The original resort consisted of six trails on Barker Mountain accessed by a single T-bar and a small base lodge, with the Vernon Street T-bar later transferred to the site to serve as a beginner’s lift. The resort now comprises 132 trails on eight peaks accessed by six lifts, and is open year-round to host other events and activities.

The growth of the resort was a result of “a lot of hard work and some forethought,” Sunday River Communications Director Darcy Liberty said. She credited the use of snow-making with increasing its popularity. Sunday River was the second resort in the state to start making snow.

“As more and more people came for our snow product, we certainly expanded on our snow-making capabilities and that certainly allowed us to expand terrain,” Liberty said.

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The celebration kicks off Friday night with music from 1980s cover
band Orange Crush from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Foggy Goggle.
Admission is free.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday River ambassadors will
lead tours over intermediate and advanced terrain. The tours are free
to skiers with a day or season pass, although those wishing to attend
are asked to call the resort’s guest services at 824-5234 to make a
reservation. The tours will discuss the history of Sunday River and its

At 6:30 p.m., the resort’s birthday party will be held at the South
Ridge Lodge, featuring meals from restaurants in
Newry and Bethel. The cost of the event is $15 for adults, $10 for
children ages 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. Proceeds will
benefit the Sunday River Region Charitable Fund, which aims to improve
the quality of life in the Sunday River communities.

Also on Saturday at the South Ridge lodge, Santa Claus will visit at 7 p.m., the
PoiStar Fire Dancers will perform at 7:45 p.m. and 8:10 p.m., and a large fireworks
show will take place at 8:30 p.m.

The Foggy Goggle will host a 21 and older show
featuring the Dave Matthews cover band, One Sweet World, at 8
p.m. Judges will be at the Foggy Goggle seeking entries for the
Viking God or Goddess Lookalike Contest; the winner will receive a
2010-11 Gold New England Season Pass.

The celebration closes on Sunday with a pancake breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m. at the Barker Lodge. A 1959 Ford
Thunderbird, recently purchased by the resort, will be displayed
throughout the weekend’s events.

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