My husband Derek and I have only been on the road an hour when my cousin Ben calls to say, “You’d better not still be at work!” He is also en route to the big blue triangle, a winter sanctuary for many: Sugarloaf.
4:45 p.m. @ Sugarloaf Sports Outlet
Taking advantage of our early-evening arrival, we stop in Kingfield. We comb through racks of the latest gear, and I resist a back-up pair of neon ski pants.
5:15 p.m. @ Tufulio’s Restaurant & Bar
Tufulio’s is the place to stop on your way up. You can wait out the traffic or just kick off the weekend with a glass of wine on draft and a meal. The place is bustling with weekday après-skiers just off the mountain.
6:00 p.m. @ Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel
From the access road the mountain towers overhead, and the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel sits like a castle upon its base. It is grand. If you don’t have accommodations with a local (which is always authentic), this is the number-one place to stay. You can easily get anywhere from here, whether it’s by ski, board, boot, or shuttle— just valet and stay. We check in and get the lowdown on the ski lockers, outdoor hot tub, and other amenities. Then we do as we usually do—sling our bags into our room and head straight to where fun is being had.
6:30 p.m. @ 45 North
Conveniently located off the lobby, 45 North is hopping. Even so, there are two seats open for us at the bar, and we proceed to chat it up with anyone who will talk to us. Luckily, at the ’Loaf, everyone is this way. We make new friends and share some fried cauliflower, which is tossed in garlic and tamari and is so good.
7:30 p.m. @ The Rack
We head to The Rack for the ribs we saw in Maine magazine’s 2014 Sugarloaf Issue. Once again, stools are open at the busy bar—the best seats in the house, in our opinion (at the bend of the bar near the dart board). Here we meet Peter, a gentleman in all senses of the word. Peter lives here in the winter. During the week he skis, and on weekends he volunteers with the adaptive ski program. We talk about swing music and Maine life, and we have a nice meal together. Oh, and those ribs were as delicious as they looked.
9:00 p.m. @ Village on the Green
We meet up with our cousins, Ben and Kim, and their crew, who have commenced a weekend away from Boston at their house, Casa de Harding. We hang with them for a while, plotting the next day’s adventures.
10:00 p.m. @ Shipyard Brew Haus
When the hardest thing you have to do all weekend is make sure you visit all of your friends, it’s pretty sweet. Jess and Brian bought a room at the inn last year so they consider the Brew Haus their den. We head over to say hi before we turn in.
8:00 a.m. @ Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel
I wake up pumped (we are at the ’Loaf!) and tune in to WSKI TV (the only station anyone here watches) to catch our buddy Joel, live, promoting the 28th annual Fred Webster Snowball Tournament to raise funds for Special Olympics Maine.
9:00 a.m. @ Base Lodge
We are geared up and ready. Inside the lodge, hardcore skiers are signing up for the Ski the East Freeride Tour. All the lifts are spinning, and the silvery-grey sky promises snowfall.
9:15 a.m. @ Whiffletree
We meet up with Ben, Kim, and company and start to head up the hill. An older guy next to us on the lift tells us, “I usually ski during the week, but I thought I’d come up heah to watch somma those youngstas huck themselves off Ripsaw.” He is referring to the Ski the East competition. We check out the course—it’s burly—a skinny vertical trail spotted with trees and rock drops for tricks. Experts only, and vertigo for bystanders. Joel has entered, but his run isn’t for a while so we ski off as a pack to ride away our mountain morning.
10:00 a.m. @ on the slopes
We take Spillway to Narrow Gauge, and about halfway down we stop on the lip of the original headwall to reminisce. We get in a lot of runs, Skyline lifting us back up, and Kim brings us down Binder, my new favorite trail. It is narrow and bowl-like, shaped like a chute, and protected by glazed pines. It spits you out at another mountain favorite— Bullwinkle’s. Typically we stop in here for lunch, but today we just slip in to say hi to Margie, our sweet-as-pie friend who is a server here all winter long. As we click back into our bindings, it begins to snow.
12:00 p.m. @ The Bag and Kettle
We meet up for Bag burgers and curly fries—a lunch that will put you right. This burger is famous for its secret sauce and ingredient-layering technique. We score the best table—the one that is elevated in the window- lined alcove looking up at the mountain.
1:00 p.m. @ Tote Road
The snow beckons us back to the Ski the East course on Ripsaw, where we spot Joel midair in a jump that few would dare attempt. We crosscut over to Tote Road, which my buddy Brian thinks is probably the most famous trail at Sugarloaf. “The section that starts near Bullwinkle’s is called Chicken Pitch,” he tells us. “The name was derived back in the day when it was much steeper. In the spring it would become a mogul field. Every kid and newcomer had to ski this famous trail during their trip. Locals would sit at the bottom drinking beers and watching the carnage. Some still do.”
3:00 p.m. in downtown Stratton
After a good long day of skiing, we meet up with our friend Seth and take a snowy drive to the town next door. Stratton is quirky with all the vintage flair that a mountain town should have, and the Flagstaff General Store offers all the things a good general should: coffee, pizza, beer, and local knickknacks.
5:00 p.m. @ 45 North
We meet our mountain friends for a pint before heading to our dinner rezzy.
6:00 p.m. @ Bullwinkle’s at Night
Jess, Brian, Derek, and I tromp up to the Beach (the open area in front of the base lodge), where a snowcat picks us up for dinner. This is our first time on this adventure. We load in as dusk settles and the trails turn cobalt blue, and we climb the mountain. Bullwinkle’s has transformed from a mid-mountain lunch lodge to a candlelit fine-dining restaurant. Margie and the staff welcome us in with flutes of hot cider spiked with butterscotch schnapps (the manager tells us it’s what her grandmother would have served). After cocktail hour, Margie escorts the four of us to the main dining room like royalty. It’s such a blast, with truly five-star service and course after course of excellent dishes.
10:00 p.m. @ The Widowmaker Lounge
Back at the base, the Widowmaker is jamming with a live band and we meet back up with Seth. At this hour we are the oldest patrons, but not by much.
9:00 a.m. @ Shipyard Brew Haus
Did you know the Shipyard serves breakfast? And if you’re lucky, my friend Jess will be your server. It is lovely in a window-lined room overlooking the bunny hill where kids learn to ski. Moe, the manager, tells me that the ski-in/ski-out lunch buffet is the best mountain deal—under $10!
10:30 a.m. in downtown Kingfield
I drive into town to check out the shops. Carrabassett Coffee Company has a nice new building right on the main road. I buy a pound of my favorite Back Draft Roast. I stop into Scentsations, a fabulous shop of unique items, including kitchen accessories, jewelry, clothing, toys, and gifts.
11:15 a.m. @ Ski Museum of Maine
The entrance to this quaint museum is through the Sugarloaf Sports Outlet and up a little set of stairs. You can give yourself a self- guided tour around the cool collection of ski relics.
12:15 p.m. @ Funky Finds
This great thrift shop is small but packed with select finds, and a chat with the very cool owner Ruth is alone worth stopping in for. I score a chambray dress studded with copper and silver rivets for my friend Goody, who will love it.
1:00 p.m. @ Shipyard Brew Haus
It is almost time to head home, but not before one last hurrah at Shipyard. Jackets are peeled off, helmets roll around the floor, and Bloody Marys, mug club mugs, and sandwiches line every surface. All around me are old friends and the inevitable new ones that you always meet during a weekend at the ’Loaf.