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Off-Season Update

by Gabrielle Martin
You’ve heard of Weekend Update from Saturday Night Live—well, here’s the Sugarloaf version, our “Off-season Update.”

Since our last “Road to Winter” report, ski season is closer than ever, and the Sugarloaf staff have been hard at work getting the mountain in shape for winter; from mountain biking to snow making, here’s what’s been happening at the Loaf in the off-season, plus a sneak peak of what’s to come!

 
Adam Craig Continues Development of Sugarloaf’s Mountain Biking Scene

Multi-time mountain bike national champion and former Olympic team member Adam Craig joined the Sugarloaf team in May of 2021, signing on as the resort’s Mountain Bike Race and Event Sales Manager, a role committed to developing the gravity biking scene at Sugarloaf. 

Adam Craig and the Sugarloaf Trail Crew at work

Craig and the Sugarloaf Trail Crew constructed five all-new gravity-fed mountain biking trails this summer, spanning approximately 10 miles with 2,000 vertical feet. In addition to constructing rugged, natural enduro and downhill race courses, Craig has also been overseeing the resort’s forthcoming lift-accessed mountain bike park, which will include trails for riders of all abilities.

The lift serviced downhill park was announced in February 2020 in Sugarloaf 2030’s Development Road Map as part of the West Mountain development. Permitting and planning are currently underway, with lift and trail development expected to begin in summer of 2022.

Also underway for summer of 2022: Sugarloaf is slated to host the Enduro World Cup (EWS) in August, and it’s going to be a wild ride. The Loaf will be the second USA stop of 2022, and one of 11 EWS races spanning globally, from Australia to Austria!

  •  Fun fact: The 2022 series will mark the first time in the event’s history that it will feature back-to-back stops Stateside, with the first at Burke Mountain in Vermont on August 13-14 and the second at Sugarloaf August 20-21.

You can expect to see classic East Coast riding from the best in the business on brand-new hand cut trails—all thanks to legend of the sport Adam Craig, the man with the plan. Looking ahead, he says he anticipates “continuing trail development and having the world’s best enjoy the experience to the fullest.”

The EWS is the highest level of enduro mountain bike racing on the planet, featuring some of the most physically and technically challenging trails in the world. Riders competing in the EWS must earn a spot by competing in official qualifying events, including the MAXXIS Eastern States Cup Box Showdown hosted at Sugarloaf this September.

“We’re extremely excited to welcome the Enduro World Series to Sugarloaf in 2022,” General Manager Karl Strand said. “Carrabassett Valley is home to the best mountain biking in the state of Maine, and we’re looking forward to showing it off to the best riders on the planet.” 

Adam Craig“Thanks to local efforts, the Carrabassett region has already become a mountain bike destination,” Craig praises. “With this next phase of development on the mountain, we have an opportunity to attract top tier competitive events and festivals, which could be transformational for the local economy and riding community during the summer months.” 

Boosted: More Snowmaking Power Coming to the Upper-Mountain

Those who have hiked the slopes of Sugarloaf in the off-season might have noticed a new development on-hill: a clearing just off the Work Road above Bullwinkle’s, in the area between Binder and Bridle Chain.

You’ve been asking, and we’re answering: What is that clearing for?

I got the scoop from Snow Surfaces Director Dan “Dano” Barker and Snowmaking Manager Nicole Pineau, who explained that the clearing is for a new booster pump house for the mountain’s snowmaking system. 

“The booster pump increases our water capacity; it gives our pressure on top of the mountain to run low energy guns. We’re decreasing the pressure to increase flow and we’re able to send water in more directions at once all over the upper mountain, which will increase our future snowmaking capacity. We’ll be able to make snow on upper and lower mountain at the same time without over-pressurizing the lower mountain.” 

The clearing was cut and chipped by Mountain Ops’ cutting crew, who work as Sugarloaf Ski Patrollers during ski season; the trail crew, who are snowmakers during the winter, also assisted in the process, as did the excavator operators, who double as groomers once the lifts start spinning.

Photo from Maine Drone Imaging, taken November 5, 2021Photo from Maine Drone Imaging, taken November 5, 2021

After waiting for birds to come off of nesting, the crew began to clear the land in-between other ongoing projects; from start to finish, the process of cutting, de-stumping, and clearing took a total of 3 week–and that’s just the time it took for clearing the space, not preparing to build! (The booster pump house itself will tentatively be built next summer.)

In terms of tools, the crew used chain saws, a chipper, and an excavator.

The most challenging part of the project, Dano and Nicole say, was hauling materials up the hill—after all, “Building a structure on the side of the mountain is no easy task!”

 

“E” is For Efficiency

Speaking of snowmaking, our infrastructure saw significant enhancements this summer thanks, in part, to two grants from Efficiency Maine totaling $198,000, which was used to retrofit and replace existing outdated guns.

In June, funds from the first of two grants were allocated to retrofitting 23 snow gun nozzles in an effort to reduce demand on existing compressors; the second grant, awarded September 1, and additional funds were used to replace 90 low efficiency, labor-intensive, tripod snow guns with all-new HDK R4 Impulse tower guns. These new models require less air to convert water into snow, making them an ultra-efficient alternative projected to save over 11,000 kWH per gun per year.

The introduction of more efficient snow guns is an important step taken to reduce our total carbon footprint and our efforts to meet Boyne Resort’s corporate goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. 
Snowmaking at sunrise the morning of November 5, 2021 In addition to the major energy savings, the introduction of all-new efficient equipment will allow the resort to make snow more precisely; while moving tripod snow guns up and down the mountain is labor-intensive and time-consuming, the new guns will allow us to make high quality snow, super-fast, with the least amount of energy possible. With this new technology, we aim to open more terrain earlier in the season and keep trails open longer late in the season.

  • Fun fact: Eight of the new towers will feature a “swinging arm” that evenly disperse snow produced and are ideally designed to adapt to the ever-challenging wind directions that we see here in the mountain. 

The new snow guns will contribute snow to the following trails: Bridal Chain, Candyside, Lower Timberline, Narrow Gauge, Scoot, Tote Road, and Whiffletree.

Another step taken this summer towards optimizing efficiency in snowmaking was installing air and water piping from Bridle Chain down Lower Timberline, an update that will improve the speed of our snowmaking and expedite the process.

“Each year we add more low energy guns which save on electricity and power usage,” Dano says. “We’re also actively replacing older hydrants with more energy efficient Klick hydrants and guns, which increase production and decrease energy consumption. And, when the time comes, we will also be putting in new efficiency hydrants and guns for the West Mountain Project.”

 
Word on the Terrain Parks Scene

Terrain park-goers can expect to see the return of their favorite parks this season—Boardwalk, Dropline, Sidewinder (home of the Sugarloaf Banked Slalom), and Stomping Grounds—plus the addition of two all-new places to play: announcing the development of Spurline, a flowy medium-sized park filled with a variety of jibs, jumps, and snow features! Use it as a warm-up on your way to larger parks like Dropline, Stomping Grounds, or Sidewinder from the SuperQuad, or connect from the second new terrain park on Upper Tote Road to Binder-Spurline-Peavy X-Cut for a high altitude lap that can be repeated via the Skyline Chair.

And as for the Not-Year-Named medium-sized park on Upper Tote Road, this is a progression park with a view: located high on the shoulder of the mountain, it can be lapped from the Timberline chair and houses a number of small-to-mid-sized jib features that will get you ready for our larger parks further down the mountain.

 
Wintersteiger Jupiter Arrives At DHS Co.

 New to Sugarloaf is Wintersteiger’s start-of-the-art Jupiter tuning device, a new fully automated servicing system for skis and snowboards. With 5 different processing modules, 3 feeding variants, and 3 application levels all available for different service requirements, the Jupiter is a game-changer for ski shops—including our very own Downhill Supply Company. Read all about it here.

  

Winter mode: engaged.

November has arrived, bringing a chill to the Western Maine mountains. Old Man Winter is closing in, and ski season is right around the corner;  it won’t be long now, Sugarloafers!