2009-03-12 / News

Sugarloaf boasts New England's best

Ski Country
By Jeff McDonough

Great skiing can be found at Sugarloaf in Maine and is well worth the drive. Great skiing can be found at Sugarloaf in Maine and is well worth the drive. I had always heard that the skiing was outstanding at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. Almost like, but not quite, skiing the West, one old-timer once told me.

After spending a recent weekend there, I have to agree.

Sugarloaf is about a five to six hour drive from Jamestown, depending upon the Boston traffic and the weather. Maine's Carrabasset Valley and Rangely Lakes region are beautiful both winter and summer.

First, the important mountain numbers: Sugarloaf boasts an elevation of 4,237 feet, with a 2,820- foot vertical drop. (They say it has the most vertical in New Hampshire and Maine.)

For those who love rugged terrain, Sugarloaf is a skier's paradise with 134 trails and glades on 1,400 acres. The true adventure is at the top of the mountain and is called, appropriately, the Snowfields — the only above-treeline lift-serviced access in the Northeast. The locals say that on a good day, the Snowfields are transformed into a giant powder room. Fifteen chairlifts, including four high-speed quads, make getting to the top easy.

For those who prefer the playground, Sugarloaf has carved out two terrain parks and one super pipe. You'll also find a boarder- and skier-cross course, if you are interested in trying the newest Olympic winter sport competition.

You won't find big crowds at Sugarloaf, but you will discover big skiing.

Sugarloaf is unique in New England in that the village has grown around the mountain, instead of the ski resort being developed next to an existing town.

We stayed in a pleasantly comfortable two-bedroom condo (with fireplace) that was a fairly good hike from the slopes. However, we were able to take a feeder chair lift to the base lifts. When we were done for the day we were able to ski back to our condo.

Winter weather is never predictable. Many of the lifts were on wind hold on one of the days we visited Sugarloaf, so we decided to go cross-country skiing. Our valid lift tickets earned us free crosscountry ski rental at the Sugarloaf Nordic center. Ninety-five kilometers of trails wind through the Maine woods.

There was ice skating, too.

We didn't have time to visit, but we heard about the Anti-Gravity Complex that features a climbing wall and indoor skate park.

Sugarloaf is remote and does not offer the exciting nightlife for which some other New England ski resorts are known. But after a hard day of skiing, all that's really needed is a visit to the hot tub, followed glass of wine and a roaring fire.

Spring is just about here, but skiing season is far from over. There is still plenty of great skiing up north.

I look forward to skiing Sugarloaf again.

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