Giving Sugarloaf its Propers: An Update to My Sunday River Love Story

sugarloaf_usa_logoIt’s Monday in late March.  My legs ache beautifully.  The strong sensory memory of a Bag Burger lingers.  The vista seen from the Snowfields still moves my skier’s soul.  And those turns a few days after 15″ of snow: damn it’s good to be alive on the same planet as Sugarloaf.

I was lucky enough to ski and stay in Carrabassett Valley this weekend with some seasoned Loafers.  They had read my article, Sunday River and Me: An Unlikely Love Story, and most reacted pleasantly, having understood the geographical reality that guided me into the arms of the apt ski companion that is Sunday River.  However, some Sugarloafers, like Phish fans, Red Sox fans, and Religious zealots of all shades, didn’t take too kindly to my words of praise for the Newry, Maine resort.

One fanatical Loafer seemed to physically bristle at my utterance of the four slight words: I like Sunday River.  We’ll call said Loafer “Pat.”  Pat continually tried to sell me on the virtue of the Sugarloaf terrain I already adore.  He asked me if I liked my Bag Burger.  Pat, you should have already known the answer.

But what can you do?  Deep believers get defensive when their faith is challenged, even in the most feeble manner.  (Just check out the comments beneath my review of the Trey Anastasio Band show this past January.)

For Pat’s sake – and for the sake of other mono-mountain Loafers – however, I’m going to give Sugarloaf its propers.  It was, as you know, my first alpine love in the great state of Maine.

Sugarloaf Mountain

1. Sugarloafers can ski.  Riding the lift, I watched a sea of perfect turn skiers rounding out their quick turns in full control.  Proficiency is the minimum on this mountain.

2. The snowfields are everything I remember: steep, snowy, vast.  I got that heart-in-the-throat feeling dropping in.

3. Sugarloaf is a community.  The bar at The Bag seemed to be filled with one group of people who all knew each other during Saturday’s apres ski.  Sugarloaf is a place filled largely with citizens of the mountain, not out-of-state tourists demanding the high end resort lifestyle.  (Though these people do haunt the mountain.  Sorry, Pat, but you know it’s true as well as I do.)

4. The Rack.  Surprising draft offerings from Maine’s brewers.  Eclectic decorum.  Solid music.  Just go.

5. The snow is as good at Sugarloaf as it is anywhere else in the East.  It’s not just the 15″ dumping that preceded my trip that makes me say this.  Those who have skied Sugarloaf know what I’m talking about.  Blame it on the location, the groomers, the adept skiers who don’t push the snow around with their turns, or Ullr, the god of snow himself, but this snow is great.

Pat and all you other Loafers-who-detest-Sunday-River, there you have it.

At one point, we were traversing back to the Spillway chairlift when Pat asked me, How does it feel to be back

I dreamily replied, It’s like getting back into bed with a former lover: after a few awkward exchanges, it’s like you were never apart.

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