Sugarloaf – Skiing or Golfing in the Woods of Maine

Though Sugarloaf is often called the best ski resort in the Northeast, it’s not for everybody, which may be one of the reasons its aficionados are so dedicated to it. Credit the long drive (about four hours from Boston) and the bitterly cold winter winds that can whip through the mountain’s higher reaches. But what are a few small inconveniences when balanced against such phenomenal skiing and small-town friendliness?

Opened for skiing in 1951, the resort came into its own in the 1970s with the construction of additional chairlifts and trailside condos. Today it’s got a continuous one-mountain vertical drop of 2,820 feet (the longest in the East); the only lift-served, above-treeline skiing in the East; 133 trails totaling more than 54 miles and accommodating everyone from kids to the most expert experts; two snow-boarding half-pipes (one of them Olympic quality) and three world-class terrain parks; and an alpine village that’s nicely glitz-free, keeping the focus on the snow. For the ultimate challenge, head to the Snowfields and take the very steep White Nitro run. The friendly, low-key atmosphere also makes Sugarloaf a great place to introduce kids to skiing, with a kids’ program that offers lessons as well as nonski activities for all ages.

Accommodations range from the Grand Summit, a classic mountain hotel with 120 rooms and stupendous views, to more than 1,000 mountainside condos and town-house apartments. Apres ski, stop by the Shipyard Brewhaus, a ski-in/ski-out pub managed by Portland’s Shipyard Brewing Company, Maine’s largest microbrewery.

In summer, Sugarloaf transforms into a golf resort, home to an 18-hoIe Robert Trent Jones course that’s consistently rated the best in Maine and one of the top 100 courses in the country. It could well be the finest wilderness mountain course in America, carved from pine and white birch forests and stretching to nearly 7,000 yards.