Though it started as nothing more than a goat-path from the summit of an un-named mountain in western Maine, Sugarloaf's Narrow Gauge trail is now known around the world for having tested, on numerous occasions, the world's best ski racers.
It all began in the late 60's when Narrow Gauge, named after the railroad that serviced the logging industry in the area, was one of only 23 (give or take) trails at Sugarloaf. With its challenging terrain, enduring length and pitch, Narrow Gauge was fated to be the host site for the 1971 World Cup races.
After more than two years in the planning stages, the dream of many, to host a FIS sanctioned event, was put into motion.
Narrow Gauge, one of the only trails at the time that had not been hand cut by founder Amos Winter, required significant renovation to meet the governing body's strict standards. The trail was widened, safety nets were erected, and timing/communication wires were strung along the trail to Sugarloaf's 4,237' summit.
During the summer of 1970, more than $18,000 was spent preparing the Narrow Gauge trail for the events to come that winter season. Course preparation during the winter included $10,000 invested, and 3000 combined work hours. Sugarloaf had only 5 Thiokol Packmaster grooming machines that logged more than 18 hours a day maintaining the course.
When the time came in February of 1971, the unorganized township of Wyman, Sugarloaf-Jerusalem Maine that housed an annual population of 85 residents, was invaded by more than 20,000 people who flocked to the base of Sugarloaf for the World Cup races. That attendance included 150 of the world's fastest competitors from 11 countries, 200 race officials, 150 National Ski Patrol members, 125 news reporters, radio broadcasters and TV crews and tens of thousands of spectators. It was the largest event in Maine for that year, and many to follow.
At a time when lift tickets were only $8.25, Sugarloaf was known around the world as the East's premier racing mountain. While much of the resort and surrounding area has changed over the years and skier visits have grown by more than three-fold, one thing remains the same today, and that's the community's strong, committed and proud racing heritage.
In the years since the 1971 World Cup, Sugarloaf has hosted the US Alpine Championships five times, 1996, 1997, 2006, 2008, and 2015.
Since the 70's, Sugarloaf's Narrow Gauge trail has not only hosted the world's most elite races, but it's also the daily training site for the up and coming US Alpine athletes training at Carrabassett Valley Academy (CVA), which over the years has included Bode Miller, Kirsten Clark, Ben Morse, Seth Wescott, and Alex Tuttle.
For more information on the 1971 World Cup races, please vist: www.sugarloafskiclub.org/