So, this is even later than my Saddleback TR
, but I wanted to get it up here for posterity's sake.
After spending an amazing (and FREEZING) day at Saddleback, I headed over to Sugarloaf for a day. Two things I noticed about Sugarloaf right away:
1) The view driving in really is spectacular. I'd heard about the "oh s**t turn" where you finally get to see the mountain, and it's definitely impressive. It's also fun to drive through mountains to get to a mountain. Much more fun than driving through hills to get to a bigger hill.
2) I have never known cold like I did at Sugarloaf. The temperature listed on the base of the Sugarloaf Superquad was 6 degrees when we got there before the lifts started turning. It was definitely colder than that at the top. The wind was strong, too (a few nights before we were there, it was clocked at over 100 MPH on the top of the mountain... I think winds on the day we were there were "only" around 45 MPH gusts). The warmest temperature I saw anywhere all day was 13 degrees. My hands were FREEZING.
We were there on Easter Sunday, and by chance, during the US Alpine Championships. As a result, there were lots of really good skiers skiing very very fast all over the hill. My friend and I both commented on how it seemed that there were a lot more racer types than normal, and I'm sure it had a lot to do with the event that was there.
With the wind, a few of the lifts were on windhold when we started, including the SL Superquad. It opened up a little later, but made for a rough start to the morning. We started on Sluice and Lower Spillway (blues) to get our bearings, and the snow was in great shape.
(it's crazy that the US Ski Team jacket in this picture is actually on a member of the US Ski Team...)
They shut down one of the doubles there because of something-or-other, so lines at the few remaining open chairs were getting long. We headed over to the Whiffletree beginners area and skied there for an hour or so, just doing laps, until the lines got longer. We probably got 6-8 runs in over the course of an hour, which was par for the course from that point on. We skied a LOT.
When lines at the Whiffletree area were getting "long" (meaning more than 2-3 minutes), we cut all the way across to the Bucksaw lift, which was the best move of the day by a long shot. We made our way past a 10-12 minute lift line to a ski-on lift where we virtually had a private playground for the next hour and a half or so.
Windrow, Glancer and Scoot provided us with a good bit of fun, and since we had the place to ourselves, we just stuck there for a while.
Eventually, we made it back to the Sugarloaf Superquad, and we skied from there for a few runs. I really, really enjoyed Tote Road and King's Landing, which were nice blues that were made challenging more by conditions than anything else. There was a little of the "cold smoke" powder on top of the hardpack, which was in pretty good shape. It was definitely hard pack in most places, and not ice, but it could turn slick very quickly. Once, I had my skis literally slide out sideways beneath me on a turn. It was a little frightening...
We headed over to the far western part of the mountain (inventively called West Mountain). This is the perfect example of a trail that serves no purpose other than to allow them to sell ski-in/ski-out properties in an area that would otherwise be ignored. It's a long straight shot down, and the snow was terrible. The lift ride up took about 5 hours (or so it seemed) and was definitely not worth the effort. Oh well, live and learn.
We got back to King's Landing, and discovered that some of the trails (Haywire, and one other, I think) were not marked on the map as terrain parks, but definitely were. Too bad, since they had some really nice snow and seemed like they'd be fun to just ski. As it was, we had to mosey down to avoid getting landed on, and we kind of stayed away from the area after that.
We ended up back at the Whiffletree area, and skied there for a while longer. One nice thing about that area, they have some really pretty seeded bumps for a short bit, so that you can practice and bail if you want. They were a bit icy when we were there, and it seemed that there were hordes of kids (5-8 years old) that would appear out of nowhere whenever I tried to tackle them. Seriously, we'd see the bumps on the way up the hill, and they'd be deserted (tumbleweed blowing across, the whole nine yards). I'd ski up to them, and nobody would be there. Suddenly, out of thin air, a gaggle of 8-10 kids (with a few parents in tow) would appear and descend on the run. I'm big enough that if I were to run into a kid, it would be the end of their day and/or season, so I just stayed away. I did get one crack at them by the end of the day, but I didn't do so well...
(note the kid and parent...)
Finally, we decided to check out Ramdown, which is in a cluster of black trails from the top of the King Pine lift, which had opened sometime during the day. Ramdown is a blue run, but for some reason, seemed very scary when we started it. It was fun once we got going, but the visual was a little frightening.
(Ramdown is off to the left)
It's funny how perception can make things harder than they need to be. I'm sure that the pitch of Ramdown is no worse than King's Landing or Tote Road, but it seemed so daunting before we started skiing it.
After that, we went back to Whiffletree to ski until they kicked us out.Our 2nd to last run of the day was on Springboard, which is a narrow straight-shot trail down through the trees.
We skied first chair to last, and had a good time. It's a great hill, and definitely deserves to be respected as one of the great east coast skiing locations. It was a bit pricier ($72 for the day, I think) than Saddleback, but obviously had a lot more terrain... Actually, it had a lot more EVERYTHING, including people. We managed to stay away from them pretty well (who wants to stand in a liftline, let alone when it's 8 degrees outside?), but there were places that it got a little crowded. Pretty much anything off the Sugarloaf Superquad had a ton of people...
Sugarloaf has announced their planned closing date as the first weekend in May, which would be awesome. They've gotten more snow since I was there (over a foot, probably closer to 18 inches), and I think there's more on the way later this week. I wouldn't be surprised if they find a way to run the chairs on Memorial Day, with all of the snow that's there (and that would be a GREAT publicity stunt).
If someone offered me a free ticket to Sugarloaf, I wouldn't even have to think about going back. If Sugarloaf cost the same as Saddleback, I would probably end up at Sugarloaf. Given the choice between the two again (full-price tickets at each), I'd probably end up at Saddleback.
Maybe I'm not good enough yet to appreciate the real treasures at Sugarloaf (the snow fields and the backside, for instance), but for my money, Saddleback's a lot more my style.
Then again, earlier this year I went to Vermont and enjoyed Bolton Valley more than Stowe, so that should give you an idea of where I'm coming from...