Traditional New England reserve seems to be missing at Sugarloaf/USA. The prevailing attitude is friendly, upbeat, and casually welcoming. While mainly associated with skiing and winter, Sugarloaf is fast becoming an all-season destination, with golf predominating in summer. All access is via Portland or Bangor, and once in western Maine, just about all roads lead to Sugarloaf. Route 27 is the main road to the ski area, and from the Carrabassett Valley, Sugarloaf literally stands out. You can distinguish the peak from 20 to 40 miles away, and once you leave the valley floor and start to climb, the panorama just gets better and better. Locals and repeat visitors have dubbed one particular spot “Oh-my-gosh corner,” because it is so stunning as you round the corner and suddenly see the front of this impressive mountain with its 133 trails and an Alpine village set on the slope.
Accommodations: Sugarloaf has the capacity to sleep approximately 7,000 people on the mountainside. Nine hundred-plus condominiums are set in various clusters of two to twenty-eight units and offer a wide selection of design. Styles include hotel rooms, studios, lofts, and up to five-bedroom, three-bath complexes. The forty-two-room Sugarloaf Inn and the Sugarloaf Grand Summit Resort Hotel’s 120-plus rooms and suites complete the lodging options. Custom packages are planned for each family’s needs. Packages generally include a health club pass and group ski lessons. A complimentary shuttle system gets you around the resort with ease.
Sugarloaf was one of the first ski areas to introduce the ski-in/ski-out concept; in fact, most accommodations are slopeside or within walking distance of a lift. This is great for older children, as it gives them a sense of independence and it gives everyone a sense of freedom. If you want to sleep late or linger over coffee, others in your party need not delay their skiing. Gondola Village, the largest condominium and the heart of the development, is where you will find the nursery.
Dining: Dining in the Sugarloaf area is a fun adventure that is taken quite seriously. With fourteen on-mountain restaurants, you can have everything from burgers to bouillabaisse to full meals.
Gepetto’s is a slopeside restaurant with salad, pasta, soup, and steaks; a greenhouse addition; and a mini-arcade. The Seasons Restaurant at the Sugarloaf Inn offers fresh Maine lobster every night and innovative American cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. The Double Diamond Steakhouse at the Grand Summit boasts good food, great drinks, and entertainment. For apres-ski the Widowmaker Lounge offers cocktails and music you can hear yourself talk over. Upstairs at the base lodge, Avalanche provides a nonalcoholic teen center with lots of action. One of the more recent additions to Sugarloaf/USA is the Shipyard Brewhaus, located just at the base of the Birches slope. It serves fine Maine microbrews on tap, lunch daily, and pub fare after 2:00 p.m. During the summer six restaurants remain open, so there’s still a wide choice.
Recreation: The most impressive aspect of skiing Sugarloaf is that you are skiing a big mountain. It is a traditional mountain in that it begins gently, goes to intermediate in the middle, and gets “durn hard at the top,” as a local might say. Sugarloaf has the most continuous vertical drop in the East. It is possible to come almost straight down the 2,820-foot vertical drop (and even do it in an upright position if you’re good) having taken only two lifts. A good beginner or low intermediate skier can take Tote Road, a 3-mile trail from the top that follows the ridge and comes safely to the base, but gives that exciting feeling of skiing at the top of the world and surviving it. A Super Pipe, Half Pipe, and three terrain parks add to the thrill. The Pipeline boasts hits so big you can see your house from there. At the Outdoor Center, cross-country skiers can explore 100 kilometers of trails, including some lighted for night skiing, or relax at the warm, comfortable lodge.
Other winter fun includes ice-skating, snowshoeing, turbo-tubing, and hockey. The three Family Theme weeks offer additional family activities, and Holiday Weeks are chock-full of entertainment opportunities, such as a free sleigh ride through the woods. At the foot of Sugarloaf/USA, the Carrabassett Valley Antigravity Recreational Complex is a 20,000-square-foot facility that boasts Maine’s largest indoor skate bowl, trampolines with harness rigging, an indoor rock-climbing wall, and a multipurpose court with a running track, along with weight training and aerobics facilities.
Come summer, when there is no snow on the ground, the Sugarloaf Golf Club opens. This course is one of the best for wilderness golf and is one of the top one hundred to play in the United States. Every tee has a spectacular view, and
the mountain air is always cool. Tennis is limited to outside play, with two courts on the mountain and four in the town. The village has indoor racquetball courts, a sauna, hot tubs, a steam room, tanning beds, a climbing wall, and two swimming pools. But probably the most exciting summer sport is white-water rafting on the Kennebeck River. Sugarloaf also has a concentrated mountain biking program, environmental programs, and guided adventures for the whole family.