This is a good all-around mountain for any level of skier, but what sets it apart is that it has enough steep and challenging runs to keep experts happily banging the boards all day. In addition to more than 500 acres of classic wooded New England ski trails, Sugarloaf also has 80 to 100 acres of treeless snowfields at the summit, where experts can experience western-style, open-bowl skiing. Powder collects on the Backside, but the Front Face has some of the steepest terrain in New England; White Nitro literally falls away beneath you, and Gondi Line is a favorite for its consistent fall line. The downside is that only one lift, a fixed-grip quad, services the summit. Although it is much more reliable than the gondola it replaced, it still shuts down on occasion due to high winds.
Experts can easily figure out where to ski. Double-diamond on the trail map is the honest truth. Steep black runs beckon from the summit, and most also can be accessed from the East Spillway double chair. Bubble Cuffer, Winters Way and Ripsaw are designated Wild Thing trails. They
e rarely touched by a grooming machine, dependent upon natural snow and littered with moguls and natural obstacles. The aptly named Misery Whip is an old narrow T-bar line, cut straight and steep and rarely groomed. For serious bumps, head to Skidder, a training ground for the future Olympians attending Carrabasset Valley Academy, or try the au natural ones on Bubble Cuffer and Winters Way.
With its boundary-to-boundary policy, Sugarloaf has glades too, though they are yet to be discovered by the masses—perhaps because there are few signs—and chances are you’ll have them to yourself. Locals can be found almost anywhere in glades that they have spent the summers working on with their own chainsaws. Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, these glades include some of the biggest cliff drops on the East Coast, but don waste your time looking for them on a map. If you
e lucky, you may follow a pack of riders into the woods at exactly the right moment, but be ready to keep up. For marked challenges, try Cant Dog or Stump Shot. Kick Back glade, carved in the woods between Hayburner and Skidder, still has some stumps settling in since it was cut for the 2003/04 season, so be alert. On the other side of Hayburner, you’ll find Swedish Fiddle Glade, with great lines that dump you into some unofficial woods.
Given the abundance of steeps and the infamous snowfields, the real challenge for experts is what to do during the off-chance that you are here when the snowfields are closed or everything is just plain icy. Thats when you want to head into the woods and find sheltered trails. The mountain holds lots of hidden challenges, the trick is to find them.
For advanced skiers, the blacks down to the King Pine quad are all sweet and steep, if a little short. Bump monkeys should head for Choker, a natural snow trail on this side of the mountain. Widowmaker to Flume is usually groomed, but best early in the day. Narrow Gauge is perhaps the Loafs most famous trail. Its the only trail in the East thats FIS approved for all four World Cup alpine disciplines. Usually groomed, but seldom seeing high traffic, are Lower Gondi Line and Lower Wedge.
Advanced-intermediates will find that they can handle some of the single-diamond blacks on this mountain. With a few exceptions, the western half of the mountain is an intermediate playground. Tote Road and Timberline to Scoot are long (Tote Road is 3.5 miles) and wide cruisers that wind from the summit to the base—skiers can be on these trails for a half hour, notes one regular. Hayburner and Kings Landing both swoop down a continuous fall line, making them ideal for cruising.
Ramdown, off the King Pine chair, has an often nasty first 25 yards, but work through it and be rewarded with a lovely cruise no matter which direction you choose. Ditto for Boomauger, when groomed.
Blueberrys Grove, between Cruiser and Whiffletree, and Ram Pasture Glade, off the lower part of Tote Road, are good introductions to tree skiing. Adventurous kids and playful adults duck off Lombard Cross-cut into Rookie River, where you work your way down a small frozen waterfall before following a winding riverbed. Don’t be surprised if the kids have more gumption than the adults; they have shorter skis and boards.
At the base of the mountain, beginners will find the very broad and very gentle Boardwalk run. Those looking for a little more challenge graduate to Lower Winters Way (secluded with little traffic), off the Double Runner chairs, and from there to the Whiffletree quad. When you
e comfortable on the Whiffletree trails, head for the summit and take a run leisurely run down Timberline, a wide scenic trail that eases down the mountains western edge before it connects with Tote Road. Be forewarned: The Chicken Pitch section of Tote Road is a notorious trouble spot, especially later in the day, when it becomes a body slalom.
Terrain off the pokey Bucksaw chair offers a bit more challenge: a steeper pitch or narrower trails. The plus here is that these trails get very little traffic.
First-timers start on the long, gentle Birches slope, served by two chairlifts, Snubber and Sawduster. This is a great learning slope with only one caveat: It also is the access slope for a lot of slopeside lodging, so first-timers should quit a little early.