Sugarloaf is the real-deal of Eastern skiing. It is the second largest ski area both in terms of skiable acreage and vertical drop, coming in just behind Killington. The summit of Sugarloaf Mountain, is the second tallest in Maine, behind Mount Katahdin. While brief, Sugarloaf is home to the only lift-serviced skiing above tree line in the East. Its season typically runs from mid-November until the first week of May. While mammoth in both vertical and acreage, its location in far away Carabassett Valley on Rt 27 in Maine leaves the mountain relatively uncrowded compared to rival/sister resort Sunday River.
Base Areas and Parking
Sugarloaf really only has one base area. There is a small parking lot without skier services on West Mountain, but 90% of parking is located near the main base area and village. Shuttles run frequently to all lots as all of them require a small to moderate hike uphill past the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel to reach the lodge.
The shuttles will drop you off right in front of the resort's only base lodge. The bottom floor of the lodge contains the season pass desk and general customer services including ticket windows. Traversing up the stairs will lead you to the main level of the lodge which contains a basic cafeteria, plenty of seating, and a few small food counters including Urban Sugar Donuts and Only Soup (the donuts are amazing). There are lockers available for rent in an elevated middle section of this lodge as well as plenty of cubbies to store your gear everywhere. The upper floors of the lodge contain the Widowmaker Lounge, a popular bar and restaurant and the rentals. Just outside of the front floor of the lodge is an area known as "The Beach" containing a large fire pit and often has several food trucks parked there. A must hit on a nice spring day!
There is also a small resort village containing a few shops and places to eat that runs to the lookers right of the mountain from the base lodge. Unfortunately, the SuperQuad, the heart of the resort's lift system, is located at the opposite end of the village from the base lodge. Getting to the lift from the base lodge requires either A) a hike through the village or B) a 50' hike up a small hill followed by a 30 second skate to the lift.
Sugarloaf has a surprisingly good amount of terrain for beginners of all variety (never-evers, experienced beginners, and lower intermediates). Additionally, the Perfect Turn ski school offers private or group lessons for kids and adults.
The trail selections for beginners and lower intermediates are spread into roughly five different areas across the mountain each with different ease of access and crowds. In general, easier terrain is found on the lower half of the mountain with the exception of the Timberline area. Photo by Jim Kenney:
Sawduster and Skidway Area
Located right next to the base lodge, the Sawduster and Skidway doubles are short and provide comfortable access to wide open gentle slopes perfect for first timers to learn how to snowplow and turn for the first time. The Sawduster lift is popular with little kids as it actually crosses the resort's village with views of the large 30 person hot tub and shops. The Snubber trail goes even further down from the Sawduster lift and is primarily used to access condos, but this is sometimes skied by beginners looking for a longer run. It is very flat and is suitable for even the newest skier or boarder. Return to the base area via the Snubber triple.
30 person hot tub at Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel, photo by Jim Kenney
Double Runner Area
The Double Runner East and West Double-Doubles are located uphill from the base lodge in the center of the resort's base. These lifts access the next step in a beginner's skiing or snowboarding progression. Double Runner East is slightly shorter than West, covering about 600' and 1000' of vertical respectively. The Boardwalk trail running under the lift is aptly named as a gentle, wide open slope as well. The NASTAR course for resort is also located on this gentle green.
Unfortunately, the Boardwalk trail is the main route down to the base area from most upper mountain terrain, so some inconsiderate advanced skiers will occasionally speed through here too quickly, which can be intimidating to younger and newer skiers.
The Wiffletree Area is served by one of the resort's two high speed quads, Wiffletree. The area is located on the lower left flank of the mountain and has more 'advanced' beginner terrain and a oftentimes a small starter terrain park on the Cruiser trail. The lift services 1000' of vertical providing some sustained but moderate pitch for an advancing skier or rider to gain some confidence. The area will gain some traffic on busy days, but the trails are generally less crowded than the Double Runner trails. Rollaway to the Wiffletree trail is the recommended trail to take if you are first advancing to this area of the resort. Moose Alley, another route down from Wiffletree, is a narrow, winding, but very gentle green that is popular with kids. There are a few small cabins with fun activities along the sides of the trail. Lastly, Lower Poleline is another interesting beginner trail with some power poles running down the middle. Check that it is groomed first before going down it!
The Bucksaw area used to have its own lift, the Bucksaw Double, until it was removed in the summer of 2015. The area contains some uncrowded (bordering on empty), interesting lower intermediate cruising terrain. Getting to these trails requires a trip up the SuperQuad and down the beginning section of Tote Road before veering to the skier's left after you pass by Bullwinkle's. The Scoot, Windrow, and Horseshoe trails providing gentle rolling groomed paradise for your lower-intermediate skier or rider. I recommend anyone skiing with a confident beginner or intermediate skier or rider take a trip over to these trails. The initial drop onto Scoot and Windrow might look a little intimidating, but take the Good Chance X-Cut around and intercept these trails once they become greens a little further down, they flatten out quickly.
The Timberline lift, though technically the resort's "summit chair" actually provides some compelling terrain for a confident beginner or lower intermediate. The Timberline trail (looker's right of the chairlift) provides some great views on a trail accessible by most ability levels. Tote Road Extension is also a gentle blue trail that is always groomed. It has one ~75' steeper pitch, but the rest is very manageable by a more confident beginner.
Intermediate cruising terrain at Sugarloaf is probably the mountain's biggest weakness compared to nearby Sunday River or large Vermont resorts, such as Okemo. However, much of the terrain mentioned in the Beginner section in the Wiffletree, Timberline, and Bucksaw areas can also be enjoyed by an intermediate. I would especially check out the Timberline area. The runs are long, consistently pitched, and provide some gorgeous views. For a more experienced intermediate not yet ready to handle groomed or ungroomed blacks, should also take a spin through the following SuperQuad and Skyline trails.
The star intermediate trail off the SuperQuad, the busiest lift at the resort, is Tote Road. Tote Road is often the first trail opened each year and contains some interesting pitches spread out over a 1700 vertical foot run and is always groomed to perfection each night. However, trail since this trail is the easiest trail directly off the SuperQuad, it is often the busiest. The SuperQuad was pretty much aligned to provide access to this trail, so you'll hear many lift conversations about how rad Tote Road is skiing that day! At the top of the lift, turn to the right and continue to traverse straight ahead and you'll find yourself on Tote Road.
Alternatively, for a more confident intermediate skier, the King's Landing trail to Candyside provides a slightly steeper groomed alternative to Tote Road. If you take the same right turn off the SuperQuad, King's Landing is the third trail you come across while following Tote Road (after black diamond trails Hayburner and Skidder). As mentioned in the Beginner section, if you continue down Tote Road to Bullwinkles, you can access the Bucksaw terrain with slightly easier, but interesting blues like Scoot or Windrow.
There are also a few intermediate cruisers off the Skyline lift, located in the dead center of the main mountain face. These trails are my personal favorite and superior to the SuperQuad as they lack any runout. The drawback of these trails is how you get to them. At the top of the Skyline lift, you must take a sharp right turn and actually follow the upper portion of Tote Road down to the top of the SuperQuad where you then take another right turn and begin traversing back towards Skyline on a trail called Gin Pole (follow signs for Skyline). You will actually cross through the Bateau T-Bar liftline along this traverse. You can stop your traverse once you are under the Skyline lift. The trail directly under the lift is a black diamond, Spillway, but quickly forking off to the skier's right is Sluice, a popular groomed blue. If you continue your traverse a little farther past the Sluice and Spillway trails you reach the blue section of Gondola Line (Gondi Line), considered by some to be the best blue cruiser at Sugarloaf. Gondi line has some wonderful pitches and rolls to it that make for a compelling, but smooth groomed run. Lastly, if you follow the Spillway X-Cut (a black, but it is a flat traverse trail) across to the King Pine lift you can take Ramdown, a wide open blue trail. Towards the bottom of this trail you can either traverse back to Skyline or head down Tohaul to the King Pine quad.
Ungroomed Intermediate Terrain
Sugarloaf typically leaves quite a few blue trails ungroomed or completely natural. Check the grooming report each morning, but there are typically some trails in the Wiffletree area that are left untouched by groomers. My personal recommendation is to try Old Winter's Way, an ungroomed blue off the Skyline lift. Alternatively Buckboard, looker's left off Wiffletree, and sometimes Springboard, looker's right, are ungroomed, narrow, and fun. Check out the glade skier's right of Buckboard too late on a powder day for a chance at some leftover untracked. The Timeberline area has a few ungroomed narrow trails that are moderately pitched too. Cinder Hoe is an old T-bar line, Buckskin, and Binder (a black, but with a very moderate pitch) are ungroomed and less trafficked than most trails at the resort.
Sugarloaf offers a plethora of groomed and ungroomed advanced terrain rivaling any resort in the east. The steepest, often groomed, trails live in the dead center of the mountain face with White Nitro and Upper Gondi Line being the perennial favorites and most well known. If those trails seem a little intimidating, look over in the King Pine or SuperQuad area before trying out the trails off Spillway X-Cut.
The King Pine area is located at the far eastern end of the resort. Many locals begin their days here, especially in the springtime and work their way west following the sun. King Pine features a few groomed black runs including Widowmaker, Flume, and Haul Back. Ungroomed options include Ripsaw, a natural trail to the skier's right of the lift, Choker, a short bump run located part of the way down Widowmaker, and Misery Whip, narrow, steep, old T-bar line that is a whole lot of fun. I highly recommend it on or right after a powder day for some delicious powdery bumps.
Advanced groomed terrain off the SuperQuad includes Hayburner, a groomed black, Skidder, the mogul competition trail that is occasionally groomed, Sheerboom, and Competition Hill, the race trail. Advanced ungroomed terrain off the SuperQuad includes Skidder when seeded with bumps and Double Bitter, an all natural, narrow trail. While rated as a black, Double Bitter is not all that steep, but it is not without challenge. Seek it out on a powder day!
Skyline offers the most diverse array of advanced trails, groomed and ungroomed at Sugarloaf. Generally, as you move further to the looker's left of the lift the trails get steeper and more challenging. Starting to the looker's right of the lift (and to the right of the T-Bar), Narrow Gauge is the mountain's premier FIS race trail homologated for all 4 racing disciplines. Underneath Skyline is Spillway, a consistently pitched single black that is often groomed. Some moguls will often be allowed to form along the sides of the trail, but better bumps are found elsewhere. The headwall of the trail is the steepest part, this if often very icy if consistently groomed. Moving further to the looker's left along the Spillway X-Cut, Upper Winter's Way is an ungroomed black that provides a nice warm up for the steeper trails to come. Next you have Upper Gondi Line, usually groomed, but one of the steepest on map trails east of the Rockies. The downside of Gondi Line is that it is often wind blown and busier than trails further down. Bubblecuffer comes up next, one of the most popular ungroomed trails at the Loaf. On a powder day, this is one of the best trails to hit. Next you will run into White Nitro, the steepest, albeit short, trail on the map at Sugarloaf. After the main pitch, take your first left for the fastest route to Skyline. Lastly you have Boomauger which has a more gentle pitch than the trails previous mentioned. It is bumped up for the top half before turning into a blue cruiser.
Two photos taken near Bubblecuffer, photos by Jim Kenney
The snowfields at Sugarloaf offer above the treeline skiing, the only lift serviced above treeline skiing in the east. They are serviced by the Timberline lift and while shorter than terrain off Skyline or the SuperQuad, these trails offer some steep (often icy) terrain that's unbeatable when the conditions are right. The White Nitro, Gondi Line, and Narrow Gauge Extension trails are most often groomed while the rest are left completely natural and should be of interest to anyone who considers themselves an advanced skier. Powder Keg is one of my personal favorites and provides an amazing view of the entire mountain face below you. High Rigger to Hard Tack runs along the backside of the snowfields and are amazing on a powder day, though often can get crowded when open. If you venture onto these backside snowfield trails, be sure not to venture too far down as you will be unable to get back to the main face without significant work and hiking.
Tree Skiing / Glades
Burnt Mountain/Brackett Basin is an incredibly unique eastern tree skiing paradise. Requiring a hike to reach the Burnt Summit or traversing to reach Brackett, these glades were hand cut by a small team starting in 2010. Enter Brackett from the top of the King Pine lift by the Ripsaw trail.
Entering Brackett Basin, photo by Jim Kenney
Upper mountain mogul run with Burnt Mountain in the background, photo by Jim Kenney
For more extreme tree skiing, trails off the backside of the snowfields offer a wholly different experience. On the Backside there are narrow chutes, gladed bowls and some of the steepest pitches available at Sugarloaf. Some of these require a lot of snow to open (Elevator Shaft), so be sure to ask some friendly locals if the area is skiable if you are just visiting for a week or weekend.
Additionally, on the main face there are tons of on and off map trees. Between all the runs on Skyline there are a variety of solid glades. Additionally off the Superquad you will find a few additional runs. Over on West Mountain there are a variety of off-map lines. These are rarely trafficked and require a hike out, but can be a nice way to get away from the crowds on a busy day. Lastly, check out the Wiffletree area for some lower angle glades!
Sugarloaf is one large mountain unlike other large areas in Killington, such as Killington, Stowe, or Sunday River that have multiple mountain peaks. You can ski to nearly any lift on the mountain from the top of any other lift. The blessing and curse of Sugarloaf is how far away from everything it is. As a result, there are usually low crowds and minimal liftlines on the vast majority of ski days (including weekends) throughout the year. With just a little bit of lift knowledge and planning, you can almost completely eliminate any lift lines from your Sugarloaf experience (President's Day and MLK weekend excluded).
Lower Mountain Lifts
As previously explained in the beginner trail recommendations section, Sugarloaf's lower mountain lifts mostly service beginner and lower-intermediate terrain.
Snubber and West Mountain
These two lifts are the condo access lifts and do not service any regularly skied terrain. Snubber especially is an extremely long and flat trail.
Sawduster and Skidway
These two double chairlifts are short beginner chairs beginning either at or just below the base lodge. They are rarely crowded as they service nothing beyond wide gentle beginner slopes.
Double Runners East and West
These old double-double style lifts are located in between and slightly uphill from the base lodge and the SuperQuad. Double Runner East services just over 600 vertical feet of beginner terrain and terminates at the base of the Skyline lift while Double Runner West (looker's right) services 1000 vertical feet of slightly steeper terrain terminating just above Skyline (at the base of the T-bar) with a midstation at the base of Skyline. These lifts are also rarely have crowds except on the busiest of Saturdays. Look for them as an easier alternative to reach Skyline if the SuperQuad has a long line.
Many years ago on tower 19 of Double Runner West a sign hung symbolizing the old rivalry between Sunday River and Sugarloaf, Maine's two largest and most storied ski resorts. The sign read "If you were at Sunday River, you'd be at the top." Eventually, Sugarloaf was actually purchased by Les Otten, one of the instrumental developers of Sunday River and the sign was taken down.
The Wiffletree lift is one of the resort's two high speed quads. Servicing mostly intermediate and beginner terrain, Wiffletree is also used as a method to reach the King Pine area of the resort. While rarely as crowded as the SuperQuad, Wiffletree can often have a line and is often the third most crowded lift at the resort behind the SuperQuad and Skyline.
The SuperQuad is the last lift out of Sugarloaf's base area. At over 1700 vertical feet servicing some of the biggest vertical in the east, the SuperQuad is the Loaf's longest lift by far and the closest thing resembling a "signature lift" at this time. The clear workhorse of the resort, the SuperQuad is the first lift to open every year and often the last to close. Access to Bullwinkle's restaurant, lower-intermediate (in the Bucksaw area), intermediate, and advanced terrain, the SuperQuad is where the average vacationer at Sugarloaf spends most of their time. As a result, this lift is the most crowded lift at the resort. It is the only lift that reliably has a line on every mid season weekend. Gold+ passholders also receive a special First Tracks perk from this lift at 7:30 AM on Sundays.
Upper Mountain Lifts
The upper mountain lifts will have fewer crowds than lower mountain lifts. These lifts are all fixed grip quads (except the Bateau T-Bar) and include Skyline, Timberline, and King Pine.
The most obvious and prominent upper mountain lift is Skyline, a fixed grip carpet loaded Doppelmayr quad built before the 2011-2012 season. This lift serves some of the Loaf's signature advanced terrain including Gondi Line and White Nitro as well as some excellent glades. Due to the terrain it services and its central location, Skyline is usually the most crowded upper mountain lift. Luckily, the lift line is usually well staffed and moves quickly. Even in the middle of a Saturday, you'll never wait more than 10 minutes (usually much less). My typical plan is to avoid Skyline from 10:00 - 1:00 on most Saturdays and ski a lift that has an even shorter (or no) line.
Looking down White Nitro, photo by Jim Kenney
The greatest perk of Skyline compared to its predecessor lift, the Spillway double-doubles, is its heavier wind resistant construction. Sugarloaf paid extra for a heavier, thicker haul rope as well as heavier chairs (>1,000 lbs per chair) to make the lift as wind resistant as possible.
The King Pine lift services the far eastern edge of the resort and also serves as an entrance point into Brackett Basin. Since it faces northeast, this whole area tends to get cast in shadow towards the afternoon, especially in December and January when the days are shortest. 10 years ago, King Pine had a much lower ridership than it does today, but the area is still one of the more uncrowded areas of the resort compared to the SuperQuad and Skyline. Look to ride this lift if crowds are bad on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, especially if Brackett isn't open yet. The trails served by this fixed grip quad are mostly advanced trails with a good mix of ungroomed and groomed trails as well as gladed terrain.
Timberline is another fixed grip quad that has long been a part of the Sugarloaf resort. Before moving to the western shoulder, Timberline was the Wiffletree quad before the HSQ was installed. Serving a whole variety of terrain and the only lift accessing the snowfields, Timberline is usually uncrowded despite this terrain variety. The most common lift to go on windhold at the resort, the top of the lift is often very cold and windy.
The Bateau T-Bar runs roughly parallel to Skyline, but begins at the top of the Double Runner West lift (rather than Double Runner East). Only open on holidays, crowded Saturdays, and wind hold days, I've used Bateau to lap Narrow Gauge, Spillway, or Winter's Way during the highest crowd times at Sugarloaf. If you are coming from the snowfields, you can also use Bateau to get back to the Timberline lift if you exit the snowfields west of the Old Winter's Way trail and want to avoid using the Skyline lift. A small traverse will be needed to reach the base of the T-bar. Since crowds are rarely an issue at Sugarloaf, I rarely find a need to use this lift.
What to Ski When
On the few days a year that Sugarloaf is extremely crowded, look to the flanks of the mountain for fewer lines. The Timberline lift rarely has a line and King Pine usually has fewer crowds as well. Finally, if everywhere has a lift line, look to lap the Bateau T-Bar as even when the lift runs, it will never have a wait.
Sugarloaf (and it's owners Boyne Resorts) has suffered two lift tragedies in recent years primarily due to lifts from one manufacturer, Borvig.
The Spillway East double derailed on December 28, 2010. Customers fell 30 feet to the ground, and eight people were hurt. The accident occurred shortly after staff attempt to adjust a misaligned cable. The lift was immediately replaced the following summer with a new Doppelmayr Carpet Loaded Quad, Skyline.
A second lift accident occurred on the King Pine quad on March 21, 2015. A braking mechanism failed resulting a rollback of the chair. Seven customers were injured, with four of them being taken to the hospital. The mountain now maintains a Lift Safety Page to be as transparent as possible about its lift situation.
D'Ellies and Java Joe's are both your basic coffee shops with pastries and breakfast/lunch sandwiches located in the western part of the village by the Sugarloaf Hotel. Both restaurant owners are very friendly and these spots are frequented by locals on most mornings.
One of the best things about Sugarloaf is the wide array of eating options found throughout the resort. If you are spending a ski week at Sugarloaf, you can very easily eat lunch at a different place every day you're there.
Narrow Gauge Cafe
Located in the base lodge on the first floor, the Narrow Gauge Cafe is your standard ski resort cafeteria. The food is not bad and there is a wide selection of options, but it will cost you the standard semi-exorbitant prices found in ski resort cafeterias these days. I typically spend $3-$5 more and eat lunch elsewhere.
The resort has a mid-mountain eating establishment, Bullwinkle's, easily reachable from the Tote Road trail off the SuperQuad. Lunch at Bullwinkle's is a popular option and won't disappoint with gorgeous mountain views surrounding you. There are tables both outside and in to consume the food. I would caution you however, compared to options at the base, Bullwinkle's is more expensive and less tasty.
Heading to Bullwinkle's for lunch, photo by Jim Kenney
The Bag and Kettle
My favorite place for lunch at Sugarloaf (or anywhere else for that matter) is The Bag located just to the skier's left of the base lodge in the village. The Bag makes far and away the best burger at the resort and possibly in North America too. If eating a burger is your go to lunchtime move, there is no reason to head anywhere else. The Bag is a sit down restaurant that has fast service, but tends to get very crowded around lunch time. Expect a 10 minute wait for a table if you are heading in for lunch after 12:00 on a Saturday. Beyond The Bag Burger, there are plenty of other dining options at this English Style Pub. Check out their pizza and sandwiches too and you will not be disappointed. I wouldn't recommend their nachos though. As it fancies itself to be "almost a traditional English Pub" a good beer selection is a necessity. The Bag carries its own beers on tap. The Potato Ale is a favorite.
Shipyard Brew Haus
Sugarloaf's Shipyard restaurant is located in the Sugarloaf Inn, positioned just below the base lodge near the Sawduster lift. Shipyard offers great beer and a lively environment for a sit down lunch on any day. I personally recommend the French Onion Soup or Chili.
Largely considered one of the centers of the Apres ski scene at Sugarloaf, the Widowmaker also serves a sit down lunch starting at 11:00. Its food is only okay, I would recommend going elsewhere. Their nachos are the best item on the menu though, and are worth eating. The huge serving size will fill up anyone after a morning of turns. They also have a full bar with over 15 beers on tap, check out the Apres ski section for more on that.
The newest addition to the resort, located in the western end of the village by the SuperQuad, Hunker Down serves lunch and dinner. The owner of this restaurant is also the founder of Nosh in Portland. The signature Bacon Dust fries do not disappoint. As of January 2018 they are rotating items on and off their menu keeping it fresh and interesting.
Black Diamond Burritos
Located next to the Burton Snowboard shop a small hike above the base lodge, Black Diamond Burritos offers massive burritos or 16 oz burrito bowls made to order, but quickly. It is a great change of pace from some of the other eating establishments. $10 for a burrito is a tad steep, but the portions are worth it and you can add a ton of different vegetables, meats, and sauces.
Offering places to sit or quick take out during the ski day, Slopeside Provisions is a newer addition to the Loaf's food scene. Check out the chili, it is some of the best I've had at a ski area.
Many restaurants exist around the resort either in the village or nearby. Most of the establishments listed above also serve dinner including Hunker Down and The Bag.
45 North - Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel
The fanciest restaurant at the resort I admit I have only been here once. The food did not wow me for the price, but they offer a more upscale menu which might be refreshing if you are sick of eating burgers and nachos.
Shipyard Brew Haus - Sugarloaf Inn
Less expensive than 45 North the Shipyard Brew Haus is located a 5 minute walk down the Snubber trail in the village. The wait staff is always friendly and they offer a variety of burgers, sandwiches, and soups.
The Rack - Sugarloaf Access Road
At the bottom of the access road, The Rack is another popular drinking spot. The food is hearty and the alcohol is excellent. A nice change of pace outside of the village.
Hug's Italian Cuisine - Townline Road, Carabassett Valley, ME
A little ways off the resort on Rt 27, Hug's is a great little hole in the wall with a very friendly owner.
Bullwinkle's - Mid-Mountain
Take an 18 person snowcat ride up to dinner at Bullwinkle's as a special event. The establishment is completely revamped from its mid-day hot spot into a candlelit restaurant dinner featuring a wide variety of different menu items including some eclectic meat selections as part of a 6 course meal.
Annual Special Events
Every April, Sugarloaf hosts their annual Reggae Festival. The event is a spring tradition for many skiers, and focuses more on the partying and celebration than skiing.
Local Ski Shops
Downhill Supply Co. is the mountain's local shop complete with tuning and boot fitting. They will mold your shell or liner, sharpen and wax your skis, and guide you to a new pair of boots for a pretty reasonable price given they are located at a resort and have a pretty captive audience. The shop techs are pretty hyped about their new German engineered tuning machine too.
Lift ticket discounts at Sugarloaf are very hard to find. Lift ticket prices are extraordinarily high compared to most Maine ski area. Adult rates are $75 midweek and $95 weekends.
For more information: http://www.sugarloaf.com/
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