March 1, 2015

72 HOURS AT SUGARLOAF: WHAT TO DO & 3 WAYS TO SAVE $700 +

I didn’t grow up skiing, but I did love the outdoors. When I started working at L.L. Bean two years ago and EVERYBODY skied, I knew it was time. I spent my first winter learning the basics and then perfecting them. Before long, it was an addiction. Nearly every winter weekend I was in the mountains, just not at Sugarloaf (that’s where the hardcore skiers went). I thought it was an exclusive, expensive social club. But this year, extraordinary December snowfalls drew me in. And then I learned the truth. I’ve been love-drunk on Sugarloaf ever since. The mountain offers incredible conditions because of its elevation, every trail offers something different, the level of service at Sugarloaf is second-to-none and it holds one of the best views I’ve ever witnessed in Maine. Here’s my story on how to enjoy the largest ski resort East of the Rockies — and — how to get your money’s worth. HERE’S HOW TO SAVE SOME DOUGH Secret No. 1: Don’t book through the hotel! You do want to go to the hotel, but don’t call the hotel. Seems odd, but when you’re ready to ski, book with Expedia. You usually think of using this site for towns you’re not familiar with, but I saved around 46% and paid $350 for 3 nights. The staff was first-class. The room was soundproof and clean. If you’re looking for alternative spots, check out The Herbert Hotel (just in town in Kingfield and around $120/night) or Home Away to rent one of very few houses available in the area (beginning around $175/night and requiring at least 2 nights) Secret No. 2: Plan your meals and know what to ask for! You have endless dining options, but the biggest benefit of staying ON THE MOUNTAIN, is eating in your room. We saved more than $300 by cooking all 3 meals before we left home and packing a cooler. My big tip is this: the room doesn’t come with a microwave — call the front desk and they’ll bring one up. We were able to heat up everything from fried bacon for breakfast to pre-cooked chicken and spaghetti squash for dinner. Secret No. 3: Buy your tickets ahead of time! Don’t be one of those last-minute guys and you can save big. I saved 23% by booking 3-day lift tickets on Liftopia.com two weeks before our visit. It might sound trivial, but that pays for the gas money. HERE’S HOW TO SPEND AN AWESOME 72 HOURS AT SUGARLOAF DAY 1 We pulled into the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel early Saturday morning for a relaxing, thrill-driven three-day weekend in heaven (too much?). Now, there aren’t a ton of places to stay near the mountain, but I’ll explain those in a minute. They handed us the combination to our ski locker, a room card and brought our boots to the room. Day one was spent hammering the mountain from first chair to last lift. Snow making is in its prime and the trails prove it. We spent the first half of the day skiing the west side of the mountain (King’s Landing, Double Bitter, Hayburner, Tote Road and Cinder Hoe). A decent amount of powder covers patches of ice, but the skiing is incredible and the views: even more breathtaking. End your day with a little apr├Ęs ski action at The Widowmaker, the on-mountain bar. Live music and cold draft beer quickly help heal worn-out knees. DAY 2 Last night at The Widowmaker, the on-mountain bar, we were told to start off with the eastern side of Sugarloaf, on the King Pine lift, where the sun first hits the mountain and then work our way East. It was -6 degrees, so I took any way I could find to stay warm. It’s surprising how, at 9 a.m., you can be basking in sunlight on an Eastern trail, but frigidly grinding your teeth a couple miles away. We spent our afternoon exploring blues and black diamonds. Our favorites were Ramdown, Cruiser (for a few small jumps), Whiffletree, Rip Saw, Haulback and Boomauger. We snagged an afternoon lunch and two cold ones at the Widowmaker. The pulled pork sandwich is a safe bet. The fries, amazing. With a full day in the books, we headed back to the hotel and met some new friends in the outdoor hot tub. It might have been 6 p.m. and -10 outside, but the kicked-back soaking scene at Sugarloaf keeps you toasty. There is no better sight than staring up at the snow-packed mountain trails from the luxury of a color-changing oasis. DAY 3 After you’d skied for two full days, sunset to sundown, you don’t really have what they call “energy.” Plus, I may or may not have had one too many Jack and Coke’s at Seth Wescott’s joint down the road, The Rack. With free pool, ping pong and foosball – there’s a reason to stay late. We start out at mid-morning and explore the middle of the mountain until late afternoon, with an inch or so of fresh powder, and finish up with a delicious reuben at The Bag, the oldest eatery on the mountain. The next hour or two is spent checking out the shops.A hoodie at The Sugarloafer store and a 12-pack of Coronas to bring back to the hotel for another night in the hot tub seemed like the correct way to bring a close on the perfect three-day Maine get-a-way. Cheers!

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