I chat people up on ski lift rides - it's my thing. It annoys my kids, but I enjoy these ski conversations, learn new views and meet cool people all winter wherever I go. There is one ski resort where the chairlift chat is always the same - The Loaf. When I explain that I love skiing different mountains, they ask "why would you want to ski anywhere else?" When I point out that their New England Pass is also valid at Sunday River and Loon, they reply that they would never ski either, one guy said he wouldn't be caught dead there. Two separate skiers said they would pay extra for a Sugarloaf-Only pass. Puzzling...
What prompts this Sugarloaf passion beyond ration? I am awed by Sugarloafers' awesome alpine loyalty (see their cars, helmets, skis and houses branded with the triangular Loaf logo). Still I find their myopic mountain mania a bit bizarre. Is there something in the Carrabassett Valley water supply? It's cultish how crazy they are about their home ski hill.
Mind you, Sugarloaf Mountain is one big mountain with excellent terrain - many classic trails and great glades, amusing après ski, and the summit views are extraordinary. But like other New England ski areas, it's a long drive every weekend, it gets cold and windy, it gets lift lines.
In my further questioning to crack the Sugarloaf code, two separate chairlift singles told me half their towns (Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth, Maine) empty out on weekends to go to The Loaf - so it's one part camaraderie for sure.
Another part to Sugarloafers' fierce fall line fanaticism is spirit, which you can't quantify. Perhaps the best example is White World Week, going on right now through Jan. 24. This perennial midwinter party started in the 70s, Sugarloaf locals and loyalists take part in silly snow races by day and crazy nightly themes, then crown a King and Queen at the conclusion. This year's wacky White World antics include today's Bathing Suit Sled Derby (brrr) and Thursday's Bubble Wrap Ball - not your typical ski resort stuff.
Go to Sugarloaf and see for yourself. You will meet some characters, carve some sweet turns, and get a taste of the cult that is "The Loaf." Careful, it's clearly contagious.
Sugarloaf Photos by Greg Burke
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.