When you live in the northeast and you want to ski, driving is something you take for granted. Even if you are going for an extended family ski vacation and you live in, say New Jersey, it’s nothing out of the ordinary to drive four, five or six hours to your resort destination. In fact, we all know people who drive that much every weekend during ski season.
So, when I tell you that I jumped in my car and headed to Maine the minute I got word the snowfields at Sugarloaf were open, I hope you don’t think I’m crazy – but if you do, then read on.
Why drive seven hours from New York? Because, the backside snowfields at Sugarloaf Mountain Resort are the only lift served above the treeline skiing in the east. Not only that, but Sugarloaf is the largest ski resort east of the Rocky Mountains with over 1,000 acres of inbound terrain and 146 trails served by 12 lifts.
Aside from the great skiing, Sugarloaf is home to the biggest springtime bash in ski country – the Bud Light Reggae Fest. This year marks the 24th annual happening and word is it’ll be the biggest and best yet.
Lest you still think it’s a long ride for Sugarloaf, keep in mind that I always set it up so I’m at least doing Sunday River and/or Saddleback for a couple of days.
Sunday River is only about two hours drive from Sugarloaf and is always a good bet for early season snow. The resort is spread across eight interconnected mountain peaks and sits in a sort of micro-climate that generates good snow. Plus, it is backed up by an award winning snowmaking system.
Besides thirteen regular chairlifts, The River has a Chondola – a really cool combination gondola and chairlift where you have your choice of riding a chair or gondola car.
Simon Dumont, multiple Winter X Games champion, calls Sunday River his home mountain and hosts the annual Dumont Cup, the biggest pro-am freeskiing event in the world, drawing competitors from across the US, Canada and Europe.
This year, the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) announced that the Dumont Cup will be the first slopestyle event ever to be given a Platinum status, making the event the highest level of competition in the country for both amateur and professional skiers.
At both Sunday River and Sugarloaf you can find any kind of lodging to fit your budget or your adventurous spirit, from ski-in/ski-out on-mountain to quaint Maine B&Bs.
Depending on which direction you are coming from, it’s not much of a stretch to set a day aside for Saddleback or Camden Snowbowl. Be sure to bring your camera because Snow Bowl is the only ski area in the United States where you can get breath taking views of the ocean from the summit.
So the next time you hear the buzz that the snowfields are open – start your engines and if youare a first time Sugarloafer – brace yourself for when you turn ‘The Corner’ and get your first glance at the bald giant up the road – believe me, you won’t forget it.