Sugarloaf (ski resort)

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SUGARLOAF logo skime.png
View of Sugarloaf from the Whiffletree SuperQuad
View of Sugarloaf from the Whiffletree SuperQuad
LocationCarrabassett Valley,
Franklin County,
 United States
Nearest cityFarmington
Coordinates45°01′53″N 70°18′47″W / 45.03139°N 70.31306°W / 45.03139; -70.31306
Vertical2,820 feet (860 m)
Top elevation4,237 feet (1,291 m)
Base elevation1,417 feet (432 m)
Skiable area1,240 acres (500 ha)
Longest run3.5 miles (5.6 km)
Lift system14
Lift capacity21,810 Skiers per hour
Terrain parks3 (+ Superpipe)
Snowfall200 inches (510 cm) (10 year average)[1]
Night skiingNo

Sugarloaf (formerly Sugarloaf/USA) is a ski area and resort located on Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley, western Maine. It is the second largest ski resort east of the Mississippi in terms of skiable area (1,240 acres or 500 ha after Killington's 1,509 acres or 611 ha)[1][2] and snowmaking percentage (95%); its continuous vertical drop of 2,820 feet (860 m) is the second longest in New England (after Killington's 3,050 feet (930 m)).[1][2] Sugarloaf recorded a total of 352,000 skier visits in the 2005–2006 season, ranking it second among Maine resorts and 11th in New England.[3]

At 4,237 feet (1291 m) Sugarloaf Mountain is second in elevation to Maine's highest peak, Mount Katahdin. The summit of Sugarloaf offers the only lift-serviced above-treeline skiing in the Northeast.[1] The Appalachian Trail crosses within 0.6 miles (0.97 km) of Sugarloaf's peak and the summit offers 360 degree views of Maine's western mountains and New Hampshire's White Mountains.[4]

As of March 2010, there were 54 miles (87 km) of marked trails and a total of 651 acres (263 ha) of developed trails. There were 1,400 acres (570 ha) of skiable area boundary to boundary. The fifteen chairlifts have the capacity to carry 21,180 skiers per hour. There are also 154 marked trails and glades, most of which are named after logging terms in a tribute to Maine's logging history. Trails include thirty-four rated as green circle (25%), forty-four blue square (32%,), thirty-nine black diamond (28%), and twenty-one rated double black diamond (15%). There are also twenty glades (13%), and three terrain parks. Lifts include two SuperQuads, 3 high-capacity quads, five doubles, one triple, one T-bar, and one carpet surface lift. The Sugarloaf season runs from mid-November through early May.[5]

Sugarloaf Panorama.jpg


The Beginnings: 1950–1960[edit]

The first trail was cut at Sugarloaf in 1950 by the Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Club and a group of locals known as "The Bigelow Boys". Led by Amos Winter, along with Stub Taylor, they transformed the mountain into what is today one of the largest ski areas in the Northeast. The founding of the mountain was called for by the US ski association. Thy hired Pheous Sprague to find a mountain in Maine. Initially, they planned to have the mountain on the Bigelow mountain range, but when flagstaff lake was made the plans had to be scrapped. Phin Sprague then found Amos and Stub which knew of a mountain called Sugarloaf. Many documents relating to the founding and early years now reside at the Ski Museum of Maine in Kingfield, Maine.[6]

In the summer of 1950 Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Club was formed and club member Amos Winter and many volunteers helped cut the first trail up Sugarloaf Mountain, appropriately named Winter's Way. It wound down the Mountain with a 1,800 vertical foot drop and was cut in many places across the hill. Amos noted later that this trail was flawed in its design.[6] In 1952, the first of many ski races was held on Winter's Way.

In 1953 a 700 ft (210 m) rope tow was installed up the lower part of Winter's Way, which was a gentle slope and could be used by beginners and intermediates, while it helped take a few steps out of the hike for experts.[6]

In the summer of 1955 the ski club issued stock and formed the Sugarloaf Mountain Corporation and the first T-Bar was installed. It ascended some 900 vertical feet from the base (a warming hut) and was capable of carrying some 600 skiers per hour. The Narrow Gauge trail was cut to skiers' left and Sluice to skiers' right.[6]

A year later in the summer of 1956 another Constam T-Bar was purchased and installed. This T-Bar ran from the top of the first T-bar up into the snowfields another 2,600 ft (790 m) away (This T-bar is in the same place as the current #3 T-bar is today, and the first T-bar was in the place of current "Long Side" or Double Runner West).[6]

In the summer of 1959 the base area was relocated some 250 feet (76 m) down the hill. A two-story lodge was built and another T-bar added to service the beginner area.[6]

Sugarloaf/USA 1960–1971[edit]

1962 seasons pass
Sawduster Chair

During the summer of 1961 the #4 and #5 T-bars were installed on the east side of the mountain. They opened up the area that is now called Whiffletree and King Pine Bowl. As of late 1961 electricity only went as far south as Sugarloaf (from the south through Rangeley via Rangeley Power Company Lines west to Eustis, and then south into Carrabassett Valley). The efforts of Leo Tague, a motel owner, brought power to the valley in the beginning of that winter.[6]

During the summer of 1964 it was decided to install a lift made by Polig-Heckel-Bleichert. In the summer of 1965, Sugarloaf installed "The Mighty Gondola", a four-passenger PHB, 8,430 ft (2,570 m) aerial lift, rising convert 2350 vertical feet to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.[6]

In the summer of 1969 the first chairlift was installed to the west of Tote Road. The chairlift, Bucksaw (which was taken down in 2015), carried 945 passengers per hour up 1,200 vertical feet and over a mile. It opened up new intermediate terrain referred to now as West Mountain.

The second chairlift was installed in 1970 when Sugarloaf Mountain Corporation (SMC) bought the Sugarloaf Inn. This lift, Sawduster, was installed to carry passengers from the Inn to the Base Lodge.[6]

The Tall Timber Classic is an alpine race course held on Sugarloaf's Narrow Gauge Trail. It has hosted the World Cup (1971) and three U.S. Nationals (1996) (2006) (2008) events, along with many other Downhills and Super-G's. Statistics for the Tall timber classic include a men's downhill vertical drop of 2,430 feet (740 m) and length of 8,220 feet (2,510 m); a women's downhill vertical drop of 1,957 feet (596 m) and length of 6,850 feet (2,090 m); a men's giant slalom vertical drop of 1,347 feet (411 m) and length of 4,830 feet (1,470 m); and a women's giant slalom vertical drop of 1,347 feet (411 m) and length of 4,830 feet (1,470 m).[6]

Growth and expansion: the 1970’s[edit]

Condominiums built during the 70's

During the early 1970s there was a lack of snowfall throughout the Northeast. This event and the 1967 Oil Embargo a few years earlier would set Sugarloaf on a path towards bankruptcy a decade later. This lack of snowfall did have some positive effects however - snowmaking was installed. In 1973 Sugarloaf was unable to make any snow for December. Saddleback, located in nearby Rangeley, Maine did however have snowmaking (it was limited to the Wheeler Slope).[6]

On October 26, 1971, the residents of then Jerusalem Township voted 21–13 to incorporate and create the town of Carrabassett Valley, Maine. The first town meeting was held the next year on April 26, 1972. Crocker and Wyman Townships declined to join Jerusalem township at first, but Crocker township joined the next year. The town would play a huge role in the development of Sugarloaf/USA and the nearby Sugarloaf Outdoors Center.[6]

Valley Crossing was built by the Airport, where the Fire Station, Town Hall, and many other local government and private buildings are located. The Valley Crossing Complex included ski shops, restaurants, condos, and commercial shops. Due to its location, however, the entire Complex was moved up to the base of Sugarloaf.

In the summer of 1972 WTOS-FM "The Mountain of Pure Rock" radio station out of Skowhegan, Maine began transmitting from a radio tower perched on the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.[6]

In the summer of 1973 two more lifts were installed, Double Runner East and West. They replaced the #2 T-Bar and were extended down further to be closer to the base lodge. They were both Borvig Double Chairs. They both had an uphill capacity of about 1,200 passenger per hour, and the two lifts are 4,000 ft (1,200 m) and 3,100 ft (940 m). These lifts are both still in use today.

Because of the lack of snow for the 1973-74 season, SMC decided to install snowmaking. The first trail to have snowmaking installed was Narrow Gauge, where it was installed top to bottom.

That same summer the Spillway Chairs were installed. Spillway East, rated one of New England's best double chairs, stretched about 4,020 feet (1,230 m) long with a vertical rise of 1,500 ft (460 m), and could carry about 1,200 passengers per hour. The #3 T-Bar is still in operation today, and operates on busy days and when wind is too strong to allow for the Spillway Chairs to run.[6]

With all the new real estate development and an increase in skier days, the power supply was becoming a problem. This changed however in 1975 when Rangeley Power Company was purchased by Central Maine Power (CMP). CMP built a new transmission line from the Wyman Hydro Dam in Moscow, Maine. Additionally, Carrabassett Valley annexed Sugarloaf Township (formerly Crocker Township).[6]

Mountainside Corporation and the Appalachian Trail[edit]

A view from the rerouted A.T.

Several important developments occurred in the late 1970s. On June 25, 1976 Mountainside Corporation was created to take charge of developing and marketing real estate development on Sugarloaf. Mountainside sold the Sugarloaf Inn to Peter Weber. Mountainside is responsible for the condos built along Buckboard off Whiffletree, and many other projects important to Sugarloaf's growth.[6]

During this summer, the Appalachian Trail was moved from the summit of Sugarloaf, to over the summit of Crocker Mountain. In 1978 a fleet of Pisten Bullies was purchased for grooming; this became necessary because of the lack of natural snow. Larry Warren, appointed President in spring of 1979, negotiated the purchase of 1,170 acres (4.7 km2) of land on the adjoining, Burnt Mountain, for future lift and trail development. At the end of the 1970s Sugarloaf/USA had an uphill capacity of more than 9,000 skiers per hour.[6]

The 1980s and 90s[edit]

With the help of Peter Weber, a golf course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr, was constructed at the resort. At the same time, the Carrabassett Valley Academy was also founded. The cost of building new real estate and overruns, along with the lack of natural snow and snowmaking, put SMC in debt.[6]

In the year 2000, Sugarloaf/USA officially celebrated its 50th anniversary. The celebrations included a new color scheme which included orange, introduced for the year. In just fifty years Sugarloaf had moved from a mountain with just one trail, to one with over one-hundred-and-thirty trails, fourteen lifts, and had hosted World Cups, U.S. Nationals, and many other ski and snowboard events (Pictured is the Sugarloaf Logo with the orange scheme).[7]

New ownership: 2007–Present[edit]

In August 2007 Sugarloaf was sold by American Skiing Company to CNL Lifestyle Properties, to be managed by Boyne Resorts. CNL/Boyne also purchased Sunday River, another Maine ski area owned by ASC.[8]

Under new management, the resort promptly began performing overdue maintenance and upkeep that had begun to be neglected during lean ASC years. This included dismantling the old Gondola mid-station building, re-painting and maintaining lifts, towers, and buildings that were showing signs of neglect, and making significant upgrades to the resort's snowmaking system.[9] Boyne Resorts also removed the "USA" from "Sugarloaf/USA."[8] Boyne also installed the Moosecalator, a Magic Carpet, on The Birches Slope.

During the Summer of 2008, Sugarloaf saw more than $5 million in offseason upgrades, including all new pumps for the snowmaking system, 25 new Boyne Low-E fan guns, and 50 low energy HKD tower guns. The resort also installed all new trail signage, replaced old, run-down lift shacks with new lift building, and completely redesigned its Terrain Parks, including a new snowboardcross course designed by Olympian Seth Wescott. The resort also saw a significant expansion to its on-mountain restaurant, Bullwinkle's.[10]

In the fall of 2009, Sugarloaf and Boyne, with the help of Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott are trying to team up with the town to help purchase a new "signature lift". Seth Wescott presented a proposal during a town meeting to see if the town would help finance for a new $10 million gondola that would run the same path as the original gondola. This led to the announcement of the resort's ten year plan, which was revealed in September 2010, going by the name Sugarloaf 2020. This plan announced expansion of sidecountry glade terrain into Brackett Basin and Burnt Mountain, areas controlled by the resort for years that were only rumored for expansion. Sugarloaf 2020 also announced many new upgrades to the mountain's snowmaking and lift systems. Lifts listed for potential upgrade included the Spillway, Double Runner, Timberline, and West Mountain chairlifts. As for new lifts, the "signature lift" was listed as well as a T-Bar that would run from the top of the #3 T-Bar to the summit.

Brackett Basin would open immediately for Winter 2010-2011. A crew of 12 men worked clearing 60 acres of terrain from the top of the King Pine chair directly to the east of the existing Cant Dog Glade, introducing Cant Dog 2, Birler, Edger, and Sweeper Glade. Glades were woven together and emptied out at the bottom of the King Pine chair. Low angle terrain sat beneath the King Pine chair and was cleared down to the bottom of Lower Stub's, offering run outs via the Sugarloaf Nordic Center to the Snubber chair or by crossing Mountainside Road through local condominium complexes to the Whiffletree chair. Logging companies were given the opportunity to log the lower terrain. The glades opened in Winter 2010 down low included Rough Cut, Red Horse, High Ball, and Blacksmith Glade, as well as the Logging Road. The Brackett Basin project was completed in co-ordination with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection so as to protect environments home to endangered species such as the Bicknell's Thrush. On January 19, 2011, the terrain accessible via the King Pine chair opened for the first time. [11]

As a result of the derailment of the Spillway East chair, it was announced that in the summer of 2011 a new fixed grip quad chairlift would replace the aged Spillway lift. That work was completed and the Skyline lift, a $3 million Doppelmayr carpet-loading fixed-grip quad chair, opened during the 2011-12 season. The construction process started on April 19th with chair removal on Spillway West. Spillway East continued to run until May 1st. Demolition of the old Spillway chair was complete by the end of June. Construction of the new Skyline chair was completed by November 17th when the load test was conducted. Also for the 2011 ski season cutting began on phase two of the Burnt Mountain Expansion and the Drive system in the SuperQuad was upgraded from analog to digital. On Burnt Mountain, the existing Brackett Basin section saw additional trimming and cutting while the glade traverse was added this year into Phase 2. This traverse, called the Golden Road, started a hiking trail over the ridge between Sugarloaf and Burnt Mountain, offering higher entrances to Birler, Edger, and Sweeper, as well as the furthest down entrance into the Eastern Territory, a logged area mixed with glades and skidder roads on the western and northern facing, low-lying slopes of Burnt Mountain. The Eastern Territory did not open in 2011-12 as more clearing needed to be done in the summer of 2012.[12]

In addition to clearing the Eastern Territory in 2012, the entrance to Brackett Basin was improved to minimize skier backups and exposure of rocks and brush through the snow. The main additions of the offseason included the pruchase of 300 low-energy HKD snowguns, remodeling the ski shop and renaming it the Downhill Supply Company, as well as implementing a $1.4 million irrigation system on the golf course. In 2013, 200 more low-energy HKD snowguns were purchased and a new snowmaking line was put in on Gondola Line. In terms of guest experience, the lodge saw improvements to the Mountain Magic area for beginner skiers, a newer and larger hot tub was put in at the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel and the renovation of the new restaurant 45 North was completed. Additionally, the Upper West Mountain trail was widened in sections for ski team usage. Off to the skier's left of West Mountain, Greenhorn Glade was cut as a sidecountry experience, starting as a glade opening up into logged terrain as the pitch levels out, the run dumps out above the West Mountain developments. On Burnt Mountain, Phase 3 was started with the first glade cut off the summit, Androscoggin Glade, only accessible via the Burnt Mountain hiking trail at the end of the Golden Road, dumping into the Eastern Territory as a run out. It covers 68 acres and 1200 vertical feet. A new glade was cut on the main mountain as well off the skier's right on Upper Gondola Line called Gondi Glade. Finally, land was acquired off the backside of the mountain that locals had been skiing for years. These runs known as Awesome, Adrenaline Rush, Hell's Gate, and Ball and Chain offered extreme skiing with cliff drops from the backside runout to the Brackett Basin traverse in the King Pine area. [13]

In 2014, snowmaking improvements were conducted on Slasher, to improve connection points on the eastern part of the mountain, and 40 new low-energy HKD snowguns were purchased. A new winch cat was purchased and a new tuning machine was bought to modernize operations in the ski shop. The Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel lobby was upgraded. A new 10 acre glade, Slashfire, was cut in Brackett Basin off the Golden Road to the east of Sweeper, which dumps into the bottom of Sweeper Glade near the "Sweeper Bridge". The 2014-15 ski season was also the first in which the village was completely pedestrian friendly. Vehicular traffic was eliminated, moving the bus drop off in front of the base lodge near the Birches Slope instead of in the village between the lodge and the hotel. [14]

During the 2015-16 season, a new Doppelmayr terminal was installed at the King Pine lift due to a roll back issue that occurred the previous season. In addition, the Bucksaw lift that had long served the West Mountain area was taken off-line and dismantled due to old age. In summer 2016, the competition center was re-built and expanded as a state of the art facility. This process removed the old gondola building which the center called home, effectively removing suspicions that a "signature lift" would be constructed. That summer, a cut off from Androscoggin Glade was cut called Little Androscoggin Glade.[15]

In 2016, CNL sold its ski resorts; Sugarloaf was sold to Och-Ziff Capital Management.[16]

In 2017, cat skiing on Burnt Mountain was announced. Starting from the log yard, the cat will travel up Burnt Mountain on the boundary line near Androscoggin Glade to the top of Burnt Mountain. Kennebec Glade was cut in 2018 to introduce another run off of Burnt Mountain. [17]

Boyne's plans going forward are outlined in its Sugarloaf 2020 postings and updated from time to time as developments dictate. Among Boyne's goals in coming years is expansion of snow-making with Caribou Pond as a new water source.[18] Boyne purchased the resort from Och-Ziff Capital Management in March 2018.


On December 28, 2010 the Spillway East double chair derailed, sending some passengers on a 30-foot (9.1 m) fall.[19] The accident injured 8 people and was blamed on a misaligned cable.[20] At least one lawsuit against Sugarloaf was filed in regards to the incident.[21]

On March 21, 2015 the King Pine quad chair experienced a rollback, seriously injuring 7 skiers, including 3 children, when a chairlift malfunctioned. Four taken to the hospital.[22]

Summer activities[edit]

Sugarloaf offers many on-mountain summer activities such as golf, hiking, mountain biking, ziplines, and court sports such as tennis and basketball.

Public transportation[edit]

The Sugarloaf Explorer is a free public transportation system that services the resort. It features eight bus routes linking residential neighborhoods, condominiums, inns, and hotels in Carrabassett Valley with the Sugarloaf Base Lodge, the Outdoor Center, and local shops and restaurants.[23]

There are no regular service coach buses, commercial airline flights, or rail service to the mountain. The closest bus service is Augusta (80 miles), which is served by Greyhound Lines and Concord Coach Lines. The closet commercial airline service is also Augusta, which is only served by Cape Air. However, Portland International Jetport in Portland (134 miles) is served by eight different airlines, including low-cost carriers such as JetBlue and AirTran Airways. Amtrak also serves Portland, with five round-trip trains daily on the Downeaster.[24][25][26][27]


Sugarloaf is home to three mascots: Amos the Moose, Blueberry the Bear and Pierre the Lumberjack. Amos' cabin is accessible off of the Moose Alley trail.[28]


  1. ^ a b c d "Sugarloaf Stats". Sugarloaf. Archived from the original on 14 November 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Mountain Stats". Killington Ski Resort. Archived from the original on 2 March 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  3. ^ "CNL Owns, Boyne USA to Operate, Sugarloaf and Sunday River". Ski Area Management. 8 August 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  4. ^ National Park Service, comp. "Appalachian Trail." Map.
  5. ^ "The Mountain". Sugarloaf. Archived from the original on 10 April 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Christie, John (1 October 2007). The Story of Sugarloaf (1st ed.). Camden, Maine: Down East Books. ISBN 978-0892727230.
  7. ^ Portland Press Herald Online.
  8. ^ a b "CNL Income Properties Acquires Sugarloaf/USA and Sunday River Resorts in Maine" (Press release). Orlando: Boyne Resorts. 8 August 2007. Archived from the original on 24 January 2009. Retrieved 11 December 2008.
  9. ^ Sugarloaf (Press Release) 17 August 2007, Retrieved 12 December 2008[dead link]
  10. ^ "Sugarloaf Announces Summer Investments Totaling $5 Million" (Press release). Carrabassett Valley, Maine: Sugarloaf. 8 April 2008. Archived from the original on 18 August 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
  11. ^ "Sugarloaf | 2020 Blog". Retrieved 2019-01-02. External link in |website= (help)
  12. ^ "Sugarloaf | 2020". Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  13. ^ "Sugarloaf | 2020 Blog". Retrieved 2019-01-02. External link in |website= (help)
  14. ^ "Sugarloaf | 2020 Blog". Retrieved 2019-01-02. External link in |website= (help)
  15. ^ "Sugarloaf | 2020". Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  16. ^ "No big changes expected with new owners at Crested Butte Mountain Resort". The Denver Post. 2016-11-08. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  17. ^ "Sugarloaf | 2020 Blog". Retrieved 2019-01-02. External link in |website= (help)
  18. ^ "Sugarloaf | 2020". Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  19. ^ "Ski lift malfunction injures 9 at Maine resort". CNN. 28 December 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
  20. ^ Williams, Timothy (29 December 2010). "Misaligned Cable Blamed for Sugarloaf Chairlift Accident". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  21. ^ "Suit against Sugarloaf gets go-ahead". Portland Press Herald. 11 June 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
  22. ^ "Seven injured in Sugarloaf chairlift mishap". Carrabassett Valley, Maine: The Christian Science Monitor. 21 March 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  23. ^ Sugarloaf Explorer
  24. ^ Grayhound Routes
  25. ^ U.S. Airways Routes
  26. ^ Portland International Jetport
  27. ^ Amtrak Downeaster
  28. ^ "Mountain Mascots make a Difference". Family Ski Trips. Archived from the original on 8 January 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2013.

External links[edit]

Media related to Sugarloaf (ski resort) at Wikimedia Commons