Beta: Unlike a few lucky eastern resorts, Sunday River does not reside in a natural snowbelt (it averages just 155 inches annually). But the resort makes up for it with a heavy-duty snowmaking system. By Thanksgiving, Sunday River opens a dozen runs and 200 acres, populated by a handful of Red Sox fans and local diehards. You'll find stoplight-free Bethel still half-asleep, but with a sushi restaurant and a four-screen movie theater, it's all the action you need.
Opening Dates: Chairs usually start cranking mid November.
Early-Season Snow: Sunday River makes snow nearly every night starting in early November. Last year it opened with a five-foot base on five major runs. By late December, the area had logged 700 hours of snowmaking and received about 50 inches of the real stuff.
Terrain: In addition to 1,460 vertical feet on Barker and Locke mountains, Sunday River opened up last season with a full terrain park and several blues on Spruce Peak.
Biggest Early Season: They're still talking about back-to-back dumps in November 1985 that completely buried the ticket-selling kiosk and saw snowbanks kiss rooftops.
Deals: Early-season tickets are usually $29. Before Thanksgiving, rooms at the Grand Summit and Jordan Grand, both slopeside with outdoor pools and hot tubs, start at $90 with lift tickets, up to 50 percent less than holiday rates (800-543-2754).
Plan B: Bring your harness and shoes. Along with laser tag (laser tag!) and candlepin bowling, that funky leisure sport indigenous to the Northeast, the Big Adventure Center on Route 2 has a 26-route indoor climbing wall (207-824-0929, bigadventure.com).
Nightlife: Start at the Foggy Goggle, a slopeside brewpub with '70s-era skis on the wall, then head into town to the Matterhorn. The decor's the same, but with rowdy, late-night crowds, juicy steaks, and wood-fired pizzas.
Info: sundayriver.com, 800-543-2754