Reviewed by Scott Gornall
Dec 04, 2008
Trace a line formed by Maine's State Routes 16, 27, 4, and 142 and you will encircle some of the state's highest mountains. In the southern part of the circle you'll find the long, impressive mass of Saddleback Mountain, from whose summit drop the twisty, wooded trails of Saddleback the ski resort.
Sugarloaf boasts 138 trails, 15 lifts, and a bustling village at the base.
Even on the biggest dump days the place is peaceful: Lift lines barely push four minutes, and locals take leisurely dips into untracked shots all day.
If you want to ski Lake Louise properly, wear a helmet. The resort has rowdy terrain. A typical line off the mountain’s backside tilts to 40 degrees and is peppered with small cliff bands. And given the scenery of surrounding Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the ground. Thanks to recent efforts by the resort, including increased avalanche control and early-season boot-packing, you can now rip down Lake Louise’s 2,500-acre Powder Bowls.
POWDER DAY: When it’s dumping, traverse left off the backside of the Summit Platter to Lake Louise’s Ultimate Steeps area for a series of 35- to 40-degree, 550-foot-long chutes like Bad Boy and Free Fall. In the afternoon, harvest the tight larch glades of Ptarmigan Trees, located skier’s left of Ptarmigan quad.
THREE DAYS LATER: After the Powder Bowls are tracked out, head to the less frequented Larch Area. The short shot—435 vertical feet—through well-spaced trees on Tower 12 holds snow for days. Or traverse right off the Larch Express quad to Rock Garden for a field of fluffy pillow drops. (Warning: It’s called Rock Garden for a reason. Go only when it’s deep.)
PARK AND PIPE: Lake Louise is known for its big-mountain terrain, but Telus Park, underneath the Glacier Express quad, offers more than 25 different features. Link hits on a 45-foot tabletop, an eight-foot-high wall, and an assortment of kinked rails and boxes.
BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS: Pick from one of Lake Louise’s three backcountry gates and check conditions at the patrol shack at the top of the Larch Express quad before you go. From the terminus of the Larch quad, boot-pack for half an hour before traversing to untracked 700-foot lines in Purple Bowl.
WEATHER: Given the 40-degree pitch and exposure in Lake Louise’s Powder Bowls, February or March, when midseason snowpack has filled in the steeper lines, are the best months to go.
APRÈS: Grab a pitcher of Kokanee ($15)—Canada’s answer to Pabst Blue Ribbon—and a Spicy Spolumbo pizza loaded with chorizo sausage, garlic, and roasted red peppers ($17) at the Powderkeg Lounge in the base area’s Lodge of the Ten Peaks.
FUEL: Before you hop on the Grizzly Express gondola, stop at the Lodge of the Ten Peaks for a Sunriser bagel sandwich ($7) with egg, cheese, and bacon.
UP ALL NIGHT: National parks aren’t exactly known for their nightlife, but check out Explorers Lounge in the Lake Louise Inn. Tuesday is karaoke night.
Digs: The Lake Louise Inn offers rooms starting at $120 and provides a free shuttle to and from the mountain. For something swankier, book a room at the lakeside Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise ($199 per night).