All Time: Sugarloaf, Maine

You are not blowing it


The voice in the back of my head was telling me I was blowing it. It was 10 a.m., and we were at the base of Sugarloaf after a casual four and a half hour meandering cruise through the one-way avenues of Maine's Franklin County at snowplow pace. The lifts had opened at 8:30 on the annual "Maine Day," just as the storm total was crossing the 30-inch mark, blasting a mid-season snowpack into the bare hills. I hopped in the lift line of the quad that had stopped running because the power was out and the diesel generator was sputtering to keep up. I clicked into my bindings only to discover they weren't adjusted to my touring boots, and the DINs were set at nine. Due to liability issues, not a single person in the entire state of Maine could manage to loan me a posidriver, so I had to hand crank the bindings into position with a Swiss Army Knife flathead the size of a thimble. The DINs were a lost cause.

An hour later, I met up with my friends, caught the quad up, and watched the small bits of leftover pow get chopped into oblivion. I get a sinking feeling that, after leaving the house at 5 a.m. to ski powder, I'm going to be skiing East Coast moguls all day in loose touring boots and 125-underfoot powder skis.


After of a couple particularly labored mogul laps, we dip out toward the east, scouring the edges and woods for fresh turns. Quickly, we find those 31 inches hanging from trees, rounding out rocks, fallen trunks, and terrain features, and glades with healthy fall lines and plenty of room to breathe. We spend the rest of the afternoon grinning, powder hitting us in the gut.

The next morning, the sky pops blue. The place clears out, and we milk a few GS turns down an empty West Mountain, the snow crystals curling into the air behind us. An hour later, we're booting up a groomer to the top of the Snowfields, the clouds burned off in the noon sun. We drop off the front side and wobble through the upper windblown section, the sun lilting the inversion layer in the valley.

Down below, we drift right again into the woods. Thanks to some dutiful summer work, the troughs are clear of stumps and snags, and the skiing is smooth, deep, and loaded with small pillows. Every photographed slash comes out as a buried figure in an exploding cloud of snow, a glove, pole, or an edge of a helmet the only evidence of the subject. I take a steeper line than I mean to, burst over a six-foot ledge, and blow through the knee-deep lanes below me, picking off small airs and slamming through glades that I still can't believe are east of Jay Peak.

The author, not blowing in: PHOTO: RYAN DENNING

Hobbling to the car, we watch the snowbanks thin as we wheel south. We happen upon the best steak and cheese (not a Philly cheese-steak, mind you) at the only-in-Maine Tranten's Too gas station in Kingfield and toast to the serendipity of our exit, mindful of our early struggles. As the cowfields to either side of us darken that dull echoing of "YOU'RE BLOWING IT!! You're Blowing It! You're blowing it…. you're blowing it…" fades into quiet.