The East’s New Beast? Sort Of
The East’s New Beast? Sort Of
By any standard, Sugarloaf’s announcement yesterday of plans for a huge, trail-less “sidecountry” skiing preserve is notable—no matter how you define a resort’s skiable acres. Would the three-phase project eventually make Sugarloaf a bigger ski area than Killington? Well, if you count patrolled, gladed, inbounds terrain as part of your skiable acreage—as most resorts do these days—then yes, it will. Killington boasts 752 acres; Sugarloaf will exactly double in size, from 655 acres to 1,310. Like we said: big news.
Expansion onto neighboring Burnt Mountain has been talked about since the beginning at Sugarloaf, and resort officials yesterday made it official. There won’t be any new lifts in the immediate future, and of course, local powder hounds have been skiing much of it for years. The area is known for its deep snow, deposited there by prevailing winds. The final phase, furthest from the existing area, would include the north face of Burnt, an area where few locals have ventured, and where the deepest pockets of sun-shaded snow are likely to exist.
Starting Monday, with all permits in hand, crews will begin glading the first third of the three-phase project, a 270-acre parcel. Skiers will access it from the top of the existing King Pine quad, traversing easterward (skier’s right) into the new terrain. The ski experience in the new terrain will include tight trees that have been only moderately thinned, as well as more aggressively thinned areas.
“We haven’t ruled out the possibility of some sort of low-impact lift over there, maybe a T-bar or a fixed double or something like that,” said Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin. “I don’t think you’ll ever see a high-speed quad over there. You might also see some catskiing over there, something that would get you to the summit of Burnt Mountain and the snowfields up there, which you’d have to hike to now.”
“It’s really interesting terrain,” says Austin, who has skied it numerous times. “There’s some really steep stuff, some moderate cliff bands with up to 20- and 30-foot drops, and there’s some low-angle stuff too. The best part is how it holds snow. The prevailing winds dump everything over there and just buries it. The locals have always known that trails like King Pine and Cant Dog, over on the east side, always have the deepest snow on a powder day. This is the same thing, only further east, and the third phase is actually north-facing.”
Because the new terrain will be inbounds, it will be patrolled. Sugarloaf will strongly recommend that skiers have at least one partner and will otherwise encourage smart backcountry safety procedures. “There’ll be some signage, and we’ll have different safety procedures over there. It’s definitely a little different than a groomed trail inbounds, but yeah, if you get into trouble, it’s inbounds and patrolled, so we’ll come and get you for sure.”
As far as the “biggest in the East” crown, Austin admits, “it’ll be nice to have bragging rights. … But the important part is that it’s killer terrain, we’re listening to what Sugarloafers have told us their looking for, and we’re doing it right.”
Read Sugarloaf's press release here.