So What Makes It the "Best Ski Town"?
Compared to resort towns like Vail or Park City, I was pretty floored to see that we won, but then when I started thinking about it, it’s easy to see why. When I moved here almost 10 years ago, I was instantly captivated by the small town charm, the access to a variety of outdoor activities, and the overall ski-bum lifestyle. With a population of only 2607 residents, it never feels overwhelming or crowded, and you’re almost 100% guaranteed to run into someone you know, no matter where you go.
While we have a stop sign or two, there is only one blinking yellow traffic light. Generally speaking, there is one of everything in town: one Walgreen’s, one post office, one supermarket, one photo studio (wink wink), one craft brewery, and so on.
Bethel has a very small village downtown which is mainly comprised of Main Street and the collection of restaurants and shops that line its sides. That’s where my studio is located, so it’s clear to see why I’m a little biased. Speaking of restaurants, be prepared to get your fill of comfort food from places like Butcher Burger, Le Mu Eats, or Brian’s, but whatever your taste buds are craving, Bethel has it. (Except Indian food. Man, I love me some Indian food.)
History abounds in the buildings throughout the small village, and if you find the right old-timer at one of the small diners like Crossroads, you just might get an earful of local folklore.
Nestled between Greenwood and Newry, Bethel is the perfect mid-point for skiers and snowboarders looking to ride the big peaks of Sunday River, or the more mellow flow of Mt. Abram, all of which are within 20 minutes of each other. People often ask what the difference in vibe is between the two resorts, and I explain it to them like this: Sunday River is the Disneyland resort – it’s huge, has something for everyone in the family, it’s clean, it’s corporate, and it’s expensive. Mt Abram on the other hand is more like an early 1980’s ski movie and let’s call that movie “Hippies with 401Ks that Bought a Ski Resort”– definitely a party atmosphere on the weekend (especially when George is behind the bar), very friendly, and far less expensive. It’s a no-frills mountain that commits itself to being as sustainable as possible.
A few miles outside of Bethel, you can wander into Grafton Notch State Park for the mellow hikes of Table Rock or Step Falls, or for the more advanced hikers, you can conquer Old Speck. There are always some through-hikers hanging around before their final push to Katahdin on the Appalachian Trail.
As a photographer, I’m never running out of things to capture. The gallery below are just a few samples of the sights in and around Bethel, ME. It truly is a four-season resort town and there is no bad time to visit.
If you’re thinking about a photoshoot with me, my advice would be to make it a full weekend, stay at one of the local bed and breakfast inns, like the Holidae House, and explore everything the area has to offer. Whatever you’re into for an outdoor adventure, Bethel has it: snowboarding, skiing, cross country, mountain biking for all levels, snowshoeing, fishing, golf, hiking…and the list goes on.
So when it comes down to the best ski town in America, I’ll let you be the judge as to which one is your favorite, but for me, I’ll just sit back and smile. I’m already there.