Until pretty recently, Bethel was a sleepy resort town with one of those family-oriented ski areas that seemed destined for mothballs. But then the Sunday River ski area changed hands to those of a brash entrepreneur, who dusted it up, turned it upside down, and eventually remade it over into one of New England's most vibrant and challenging ski destinations.

With the rise of Sunday River, the sturdy New England town of Bethel (about 7 miles from the ski area) has been dragged into the modern era, and it hasn't (yet) taken on the artificial, packaged flavor of most other New England ski towns. This village is still defined by the stoic buildings of the respected Gould Academy prep school; a broad village common; and The Bethel Inn, a sprawling, old-fashioned resort that's managed to stay ahead of the tide by adding condos without ever losing its pleasant, timeworn character.