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Sugarloaf’s Fabled History

Friday, November 14, 2008


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More Than 50 Years Of Memories 

1940s: The Beginning
Amos Winter and some local kids from Kingfield – known as the Bigelow Boys – start skiing on Bigelow Mountain. In the late 1940s the local power company, Central Maine Power, builds a dam that floods the town of Flagstaff and forms Flagstaff Lake, cutting off access to Bigelow Mountain for skiing. The Bigelow Boys move to Sugarloaf Mountain. 

1950s: The First Trails
Sel Hannah, a well-known ski trail designer from Franconia, New Hampshire, assists with the design and cutting of the first trail. The trail, Winter’s Way, is cut throughout the summer of 1950 by the Bigelow Boys and friends. Sugarloaf Mountain opens for skiing during the winter of 1951. Over the next few years more trails are cut: Narrow Gauge, Sluice, Tote Road and Double Bitter. The first rope tow and T-bars are installed.

1960s: More Growth
The classic Sugarloaf triangle logo is unveiled and becomes recognizable around the world. The Red Stallion pub in Carrabassett Valley opens, and hosts infamous parties for the next 22 years. The Gondola lift, 8,340 feet in length, is installed and offers access from base to summit of Sugarloaf mountain, Maine’s second highest peak at 4,237 feet. A few years later, Sugarloaf’s first chairlift, Bucksaw, is added.

History of the Sugarloaf Gondola:
The Sugarloaf Gondola was constructed through a “do-it-yourself” project, which started in the summer of 1965 and was completed in the winter of 1966. The winter of 1969 brought so much snow, crews had to dig out the mid-station in order to run the Gondola. The cars would leave the mid-station through a “roofless” tunnel. World Cup competitors rode on the Gondola to the summit of Sugarloaf and the start of the Tall Timber Classic, held in 1971. Over time the Gondola began to have maintenance challenges and was shut down for several seasons. It reopened in 1991 from the mid-station to the summit, using parts from the lower sections of the lift. Finally in 1997, the legendary lift was taken down, with the Gondola cars auctioned off at a lively gala event. The above-treeline lift service was uninterrupted by the installation of the Timberline chair.

1970s: A Village Is Born
The first condos in Maine are built trailside at Sugarloaf. The buildings that are Village Center and Village West, along with retail shops and restaurants, were originally located at Valley Crossing in Carrabassett Valley and later moved to the base of the mountain. Three double chairlifts are added, allowing Sugarloaf to transport more than 9,000 skiers per hour on 11 lifts.  Carrabassett Valley Academy starts as an academic tutorial program for promising young athletes. The world’s highest-altitude snowmaking system is installed to cover Narrow Gauge from top to bottom. A major investment is made with the purchase of Kassbohrer Pisten Bullies, the best grooming equipment available.

1980s: Sugarloaf Is Recognized As A Four-Season Resort
The first Sugarloaf Snowmaker’s Ball is held to recognize and thank snowmakers for their important work. Several more chairlifts – Spillway West, West Mountain, Snubber, King Pine, Whiffletree and Skidway – are added, and several new trails are cut. The Sugarloaf Golf Course and the Grand Summit Resort Hotel (originally called the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel) are built in 1985. Snowmaking capacity continues to expand. The first Reggae Fest takes place in the spring of 1988.

1990s: The Expansion Continues
Capital investments in snowmaking improve efficiency and provide coverage for 92 percent of trails, making the snowmaking system at Sugarloaf one of the largest in the East. Additional investments in Bombardier grooming equipment further enhance the on-snow experience. The first Sugarloaf SuperQuad® chairlift is installed and more trails – King’s Landing, Hayburner and Candyside – are cut. The halfpipe and terrain parks are added. 1996 marks the highest snowfall total in Sugarloaf’s history with 389 inches. The gondola is retired and replaced by the Timberline Quad, which opens up above-treeline skiing on the west side of the mountain’s peak. Several new trails making up the Timberline area are cut.

The 90s is also a period of hosting many major competitive events: U.S. Snowboard Championships, U.S. Chevy Trucks Alpine National Championships, U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix, U.S. Chevy Trucks Freestyle National Championships, U.S. Masters Alpine Nationals, North American Junior Alpine Championships, and the Eastern Junior Olympics.

2000s: A New Era
Sugarloaf celebrates 50 years of skiing by hosting the first-ever Sugarloafer Ball. Budweiser Reggae Fest 2001 draws record crowds to the mountain to enjoy some of the best spring conditions in years.  Carrabassett Valley Academy and the Town of Carrabassett Valley build a new dry-land training and recreation facility, the Antigravity Complex, on land donated by Sugarloaf Mountain Corporation.

Several Sugarloaf and CVA alumnae – Kirsten Clark, Emily Cook, Mark Fawcett, Jeff Greenwood, Bode Miller and Brenda Petzold, participate in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Utah.

In 2006, Sugarloafer and U.S Snowboard Team member Seth Wescott wins the gold medal in the first-ever Snowboard Cross in the Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy.  He is one of four CVA alumni to compete in the 2006 Games.

In 2007, Sugarloaf enters a new era when Boyne Resorts, in partnership with CNL Lifestyle Properties, takes over ownership and operation of Sugarloaf. Boyne wastes little time, investing $4 million toward capital improvements for the 07/08 season.

Sugarloaf’s proud heritage of hosting world-class events continues with the 2008 Nature Valley US Alpine Championships in March, 2008.

Sugarloaf and Boyne embark on another impressive round of capital improvements, investing $5 million towards snowmaking, terrain park enhancements and additional upgrades.

Sugarloaf will host the fourth and final stop on the 2009 U.S. Snowboarding Revolution Tour on March 9-11, 2009, where the nations top up and coming snowboarders can be seen.  The USSA will crown the overall champions for the season at Sugarloaf, and the winners will qualify for a Chevy U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix event the following weekend.