The first trail was cut at Sugarloaf in 1951 by a group of locals known as "The Bigelow Boys". Led by Amos Winter, they transformed the mountain into what is today one of the largest ski areas in the Northeast. Many documents relating to the founding and early years now reside at the Ski Museum of Maine in Farmington, Maine.
At 4,237 feet (1291 m) Sugarloaf is second in elevation to Maine's highest peak, Mount Katahdin. The summit of Sugarloaf offers the only lift-serviced above-treeline skiing in the Northeast. However this area of the mountain is usually only open after a big snowstorm.
There are also several areas of the mountain:
Whiffletree: This eastern section of the mountain is serviced by the Whiffletree SuperQuadTM, a high-capacity detachable quad built by Garaventa CTEC. It services beginner to intermediate terrain, such as Whiffletree, Cruiser, and Buckboard.
King Pine Bowl: This eastern bowl is serviced by the King Pine Quad, and can also be accessed by the Spillway East Chair via Spillway X-Cut or from Whiffletree. It services intermediate terrain such as Boomauger and Ramdown, and expert terrain such as Haul Back, Widowmaker, Flume, Misserywhip, and Ripsaw. The extreme Cant Dog glade can also be access from this lift. Cant Dog is a experts glade with tight trees, cliffs, and waterfalls, which may all prove to be a challenge to even the most experienced skier.
Timberline:The Timberline Quad services the Summit of Sugarloaf. Formerly in the place of the current Whiffletree Superquad, Timberline services easy cruisers such as Timberline and Tote Road start at the top terminal of this lift. The Snowfields can also be reach from this lift, with trails like White Nitro (New England's steepest lift serviced and only trail in the snowfields with snowmaking capability), Powder Keg, and High Rigger.
Spillway: This area is serviced by the Spillway Chairs, and the Bateau #3 T-Bar. This section of the mountain will be a favorite to any expert. Off the top of Spillway Long Side (Spillway East), Spillway cross cut takes you to many (and only) expert trails and glades. The great thing about this lift is that it isolates the steepest constant slopes on the mountain with no run outs.
SuperQuad: The Sugarloaf SuperQuadTM is the most popular lift on the mountain. It services Advance, Intermediate, and a few beginner trails. Most groomed cruisers with such trails such as the famous Narrow Gauge Trail (home to the Tall Timber Classic ski race), and Tote Road. THe lift ride is very short olny about five minutes and provides specktacular views
West Mountain:This area is serviced by the West Mountain Chair, and the Bucksaw Chair (Sugarloaf's first chairlift). Bullwinkle's Grill, an on mountain restaurant, is located at the top of these two chairlifts, and right off the Tote Road Trail. West mountain is somewhat of an escape from the rest of sugarloaf. Intermediate trails such as West Mountain Trail and Scoot, can be enjoyed as a relaxed groomed cruiser.
Lower Mountain: The lower mountain, or the beginner area, is serviced by a few lifts. Double Runner East & West (mid station down), Skidway, Sawduster, Snubber (mid station up), and the magic carpet. Trails such as Boardwalk, The Landing, and The Birches are accessible beginner trails from these lifts.
In 1953 a 700ft rope tow was installed up the lower part of Winter's Way, which was a gentle slope and could be used by beginners and intermediates, while it helped take a few steps out of the hike for experts.
In the summer of 1955 the first T-Bar was installed. It ascended some 900 vertical feet from the base (a warming hut) and was capable of carrying some 600 skiers per hour. The Narrow Gauge trail was cut to skiers' left and Sluice to skiers' right.
A year later in the summer of 1956 another Constam T-Bar was purchased and installed. This T-Bar ran from the top of the first T-bar up into the snowfields another 2,600ft away (This T-bar is in the same place as the current #3 T-bar is today, and the first T-bar was in the place of current "Long Side" or Double Runner West).
In the summer of 1959 the base area was relocated. Move some 250 feet down the hill, a two-story lodge was built and another T-bar added to service the beginner area (Christie).
During the Summer if 1961 the #4 and #5 T-bars were installed on the east side of the mountain. They opened up the area that is now called Whiffletree and King Pine Bowl. The #4 T-bar stretched about 4,600ft up the mountain (longest on the mountain to date) and could load 774 passengers per hour, while the #5 T-bar stretched 3,160ft and could load 630 skiers per hour (the present day trails which are the old t-bar lines are springboard and Misery Whip). This terrain would become a favorite of former Sugarloaf General Manager and Maine Ski Museum President John M. Christie.
As of late 1961 electricity only went as far south as Sugarloaf (Electricity came from the south through Rangeley via Rangeley Power Company Lines west to Eustis, and then south into Carrabassett Valley). But the efforts spearheaded by Leo Tague, a motel owner, brought power to the valley in the beginning of that winter.
During the summer of 1964 the lift line had already been surveyed and cut, this was before the final decision's had been made on what kind of lift would be installed. When the decision was made to be a Gondola, the next was what kind it would be. Wildcat Mountain in Jackson, New Hampshire had a two passenger gondola, but this didn't seem like it would be quite the right fit. It was decided to be a four passenger Polig-Heckel-Bleichert (PHB, a German aerial ropeway company) because it would both protect passengers from the harsh winter weather, and in the summer could be open for tourist. This decision was made after King Cummings, George Cary, and John Christie, made a visit to Park City, Utah (Park City Mountain Resort), which had just installed a similar lift. So in the summer of 1965, Sugarloaf installed "The Mighty Gondola", a four passenger PHB, 8,430ft aerial lift, rising 2,350 vertical feet to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.
In 1965 Sugarloaf Mountain used Ad-Media, an Augusta, Maine base advertising agency to help publicize the new and expanding Sugarloaf. Walt Ernst, a copywriter came up with the idea to ad USA to the name Sugarloaf, hence becoming Sugarloaf/USA, which helped to implied size, scale, and international stature to the mountain.
The First Chairlifts:
In the summer of 1969 the first chairlift was installed to the west of Tote Road. The chairlift, Bucksaw (which is still in use in most of its original state), carried 945 passengers per hour up 1,200 vertical feet and over a mile. It opened up new intermediate terrain referred to now as West Mountain.
The second chairlift was installed in 1970 when Sugarloaf Mountain Corporation (SMC) bought the Sugarloaf Inn. This lift, Sawduster, was installed to carry passengers from the in to the Base Lodge.
SKI RACING AT SUGARLOAF:
In the winter of 1967 the NCAA Intercollegiate Skiing Championship was held at Sugarloaf. For this a 35-meter jumps was constructed in the valley of the former narrow gauge railroad bed behind the former Red Stallion Inn .
This was the time when the Heavyweight Ski Racing came to be. The brain child of Bud Leavitt, from the Bud Leavittshow on channel five in Bangor.
During the season of 1970-71, there had been very little snowfall throughout Europe. This meant the that World Cup had to look elsewhere to host its races There were a few other choices in North America, however, Sugarloaf was the only mountain that was large enough to host a downhill. So in 1971 two separate World Cup Competitions, with a total of six events were held at Sugarloaf/USA. Thousands of spectators and world class ski racers showed up from around the world, with such names as young Italian Star Gustavo Thoeni(who came onto the world stage at this race), along with Annie Famose, Annemarie Proell, Bernhard Russi, and Karl Schranz.
The notoriety of such a world famous race flung Sugarloaf onto the world stage. At this point it was obvious that Sugarloaf with its international stature truly deserved the name SUGARLOAF/USA (Christie).
The Tall Timber Classic is an alpine race course held on Sugarloaf's Narrow Gauge Trail. It has hosted at World Cup (1971) and three U.S. Nationals (1996) (2006) (2008) events, along with many other Downhills and Super-G's. Below are some stats about the 1971 World Cup and the Tall Timber Classic:
During the early 1970s there was a lack of snowfall throughout the Northeast. This event and the 1967 Oil Embargo a few years earlier would set Sugarloaf on a path towards bankruptcy a decade later. This lack of snowfall did have some positive effects however, snowmaking was installed. As we know today, this was a very important development to Sugarloaf and all other ski resorts. In 1973 Sugarloaf was unable to make any snow for December, Saddleback, located in nearby Rangeley, Maine did however have snowmaking (it was limited to the Wheeler Slope).
On October 26, 1971, the residents of then Jerusalem Township voted 21-13 to incorporate and create the town of Carrabassett Valley, Maine. The first town meeting was held the next year on April 26, 1972. Crocker and Wyman Townships declined to join Jerusalem township at first, but Crocker township joined the next year. The town would play a huge roll in the development of Sugarloaf/USA and the nearby Sugarloaf Outdoors Center.
Valley Crossing was built by the Airport, this is where the Fire Station, Town Hall, and many other local government and private buildings. The Valley Crossing Complex which included Ski Shops, Restaurants, condos, and commercial shops. Due to the location however, the entire Complex was moved up to the base of Sugarloaf.
In July 1972 Sugarloaf Mountain Corporation Purchased 1,750 acres on the neighboring Burnt Mountain. Burnt Mountain remains undeveloped to this day, however with new owners that may change.
In the summer of 1973 two more lifts were installed, Double Runner East and West. They replaced the #2 T-Bar and were extended down further to be closer to the base lodge. They were both Borvig Double Chairs. They both had an uphill capacity of about 1,200 passenger per hour, and the two lifts are 4,000ft and 3,100ft. These lifts are both still in use today and popular with beginners.
Because of the lack of snow for the 1973-74 season, SMC decided to install snowmaking. The first trail to have snowmaking installed was Narrow Gauge, where it was installed top to bottom.
That same summer the Spillway Chairs were installed. Spillway East, rated one of New England's best double chairs, stretched about 4,020 feet long with a vertical rise of 1,500 ft, which could carry about 1,200 passengers per hour. The #3 or "Bateau" T-Bar was slated for removal that summer, however, it was not, and for good reason. The #3 T-Bar is still in operation today, and operates on busy days and when wind is too strong to allow for the Spillway Chairs to run.
During the Summer of 1974 there was an attempt to make Sugarloaf/USA the hang-gliding capital of the east. Hang-gliders would ride the gondola up and then take off from the top of White Nitro. This lasted only shortly as the insurance company put a stop to it.
With all the new real estate development and an increase in skier days, the power supply was becoming a problem. This changed however in 1975 when Rangeley Power Company was purchased by Central Maine Power (CMP). CMP built an new transmission line from the Wyman Hydro Dam in Moscow, Maine. Additionally, Carrabassett Valley annexed Sugarloaf Township (formerly Crocker Township).
On June 25, 1976 Mountainside Corporation was created to be in charge of developing and marketing real estate development on Sugarloaf. Mountainside sold the Sugarloaf Inn to Peter Webber. Mountainside is responsible for the Condos built along Buckboard off Whiffletree, and many other projects important to Sugarloaf's growth.
During this summer, the Appalachian Trail was moved from the summit of Sugarloaf, to over the summit of Crocker Mountain. This relocation was and is important to Sugarloaf's development. This is because it kept from having a long term battle with the Appalachian Mountain Club, which is what happened at Saddleback Ski Area, stunting its growth.
In 1978 a fleet of Piston Bullies was purchased for grooming. This was becoming necessary because of the lack of natural snow.
Larry Warren was appointed President in spring of 1979. He had been with the corporation for a long time at this point, and planned to move it forward. He negotiated the purchase of 1,170 acres of land on the adjoining, Burnt Mountain, for future lift and trail development.
At the end of the 1970s Sugarloaf/USA had become a destination resort with 11 lifts and an uphill capacity of more than 9,000 skiers per hour.
The decade of the 80's was an important one to Sugarloaf/USA. It would see the realization of two dreams with the help of Peter Weber, the golf course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr, and the founding of Carrabassett Valley Academy. The cost of building new real estate and overruns, along with the lack of natural snow and snowmaking, but SMC in debt.