A quiet community wakes up for winter
A forested pocket of Maine named for the birch-lined, boulder-strewn river that runs through it, Carrabassett Valley is nestled between the majestic Bigelow Mountains to its north and several peaks along its western edge. The tallest of these, Sugarloaf, is the largest ski area in Maine and the reason most people come to quiet Carrabassett Valley. At Carrabassett Valley Academy the mountain is a constant. “Sugarloaf’s unwavering presence is always felt, and we mold ourselves around it,” says Kate Webber Punderson, head of school at Carrabassett Valley Academy (CVA). “Mountain leadership and employees play an important role for our athletes.” For three decades, CVA has offered a college preparatory education coupled with ski/snowboard competition training for 7th through 12th graders. “The rugged landscape shapes who we are, collectively and individually,” says Punderson. “Our home region is a critical aspect of our recruiting process; it’s a place where young people will find passion, persistence, and community like nowhere else.”
When families come to visit CVA, Punderson recommends on-mountain spots such as D’Ellies for breakfast and Java Joe’s for coffee and hot chocolate. For those who arrive with their skis, she suggests one of the mountain’s newest adventures: cat skiing. “I’ve skied on Burnt Mountain in Brackett Basin and the Androscoggin Glade many times by hiking up, but now these areas will be accessible via snowcat,” Punderson says. For après-ski, she says, “The Bag and Kettle and The Rack can’t be beat for a bustling crowd and local flavor.” She also sends visitors to Sugarloaf’s new Bill and Joan Alfond Competition Center, whose lobby features historic photographs and a sculpture by celebrated Maine artist Bernard Langlais.
Off the slopes, Punderson suggests the Anti-Gravity Complex for its climbing wall, trampoline, and skate park; Sugarloaf Sports and Fitness, which has a pool and hot tubs; and the SugarBowl for bowling. The Sugarloaf Outdoor Center offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice-skating. In addition to the Narrow Gauge Pathway, fat bikers can also roll along groomed trails on the Sugarloaf Golf Course. “The views are breathtaking,” Punderson says. In snow-covered Carrabassett Valley, memorable views are almost everywhere you look.
Whether they are locals or come to the mountain from hours away, skiers all know “Oh My Gosh Corner” on the final, winding approach to Sugarloaf. The 4,237-foot peak remains hidden from view until a certain bend on Route 27 reveals its snow-covered trails.
Did you know
Headquartered in Carrabassett Valley, Maine Huts and Trails maintains miles of trails that access four off-the-grid “huts” with overnight accommodations, hot showers, and healthy, locally sourced meals in season. The nonprofit hosts a number of events, such as beer and wine dinners, harvest celebrations, and guided trips.