Sugarloaf in 48 Hours
The biggest ski resort in Maine has an even bigger following, with people from a variety of backgrounds and across the state proud to call themselves Sugarloafers.
The best route to the mountain
My wife, Paula, and I leave Portland on our way to Carrabassett Valley for Sugarloaf’s Reggae Festival weekend. Many spirited debates have been waged about the best way to get to Sugarloaf from the south. It’s a matter of personal preference, but to me, exiting I-95 in Augusta to Route 27 is the only way.
Italian comfort food
We arrive in Carrabassett Valley just as the sun is setting, and head to Tufulio’s Restaurant and Bar, about ten minutes from the Access Road. It’s Italian food in the way your parents would expect: red, garlicky, and not like what you would actually encounter in Italy. It’s also delicious. I’m partial to the chicken parmesan, which is baked with marinara sauce and provolone cheese.
We check in at the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel and head to our room. The accommodations are cozy, and the location can’t be beat: if enough snow fell, you could practically ski right into the lobby.
Warming up for the weekend
It’s fun to hit the slopes early, especially in the spring when it’s not too cold in the morning. But first we head to 45 North, located in the hotel lobby. The break-fast isn’t short on options. I load up on bacon, hash browns, waffles, and coffee.
Being what I call a “high-end intermediate” skier, I go to the Whiffletree SuperQuad lift first. It provides a few medium-length runs to warm up with. My favorite is Pole Line, which is not too steep but still becomes narrow and gets bumped up after a good snow.
Tallboys and White Nitro
It’s Reggae Fest weekend, so we ski down to the Beach in front of the Base Lodge to hang out. Maine beers in tall cans are in abundant supply, and the mid-day sun is threatening to provide some serious goggle tans.
The sun has softened the snow, and now it’s time to “send it.” We take the SuperQuad lift up, then ski over to the Timberline lift, the only way to reach the summit and Sugarloaf’s legendary snowfields. There are a lot of good options up here, but we choose White Nitro. Skiers love to argue about the difficulty of trails, but one thing is uncontested: Nitro is one of the steepest runs east of the Mississippi.
The Bag and the hot tub
We pop our skis off right next to our dinner choice for the night: The Bag and Kettle. (Don’t get caught dead calling it anything but “The Bag,” though.) The Bag Burger is the experienced-Sugarloafer call here, along with some curly fries on the side.
The crowd at the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel’s outdoor hot tub is eclectic this evening, ranging from college kids to full families. The vibe is friendly and jovial as the steam rises into the much colder air above.
Doughnuts and challenging
We start this morning less nutritiously than yesterday: at the Eighty 8 Donut Cafe in the Base Lodge. The cafe sells made-to-order mini doughnuts by the dozen and half dozen, with flavors that are far from ordinary. We get a box of the works, featuring toppings ranging from Fruity Pebbles to bacon, each delicious in its own way.
Since it’s our second day, we get right to the good trails. We head up the Skyline lift and cut across the mountain, hitting one favorite after another. Gondi Line is a must. It’s a double black, steep off the headwall, and gets crusty at times. Misery Whip is worth a run, too, but be warned: the name is apt.
We ski further into the afternoon as the weekend crowd thins out. We finish our trip at the Widowmaker, the bar and restaurants upstairs in the Base Lodge. We cozy up to the bar and order a Rising Tide Brewing Company beer. Then it’s time to hit the road and pray for the next big snowstorm.