The historic glades work expected to start at Sugarloaf on Monday will alter the look of the ski resort very little, in large part because half of the tree-cutting across a 655-acre swath of woodland will be done by hand.

And so, as with the resort’s heralded low-energy snow guns, Sugarloaf officials are bragging as much about the environmentally light footprint of the new project as they are about the killer skiing and riding it will offer.

“I’ve been here forever. This is my mountain. It’s nice to do something like this and not move a lot of rocks around,” said General Manager John Diller, a Sugarloafer since 1965.

Manpower will be the biggest cost of creating the enormous new section of thinned woodland for backcountry skiing.

That means lift tickets are not expected to increase this year and will stay at $77 during peak season, said Brad Larsen, Sugarloaf vice president of sales and marketing.

When it’s done, Diller said the 655-acre glades on Burnt Mountain and within Brackett Basin will be unparalleled in the East.

Skiers and snowboarders will access it from the trails on the east side of Sugarloaf mountain and the King Pine chairlift.

When the natural snow is ample, it should offer perfect powder skiing.

“It’s really going to be huge. I think folks will be coming from far away to experience it. There is not going to be anything like it,” Diller said. “You will be able to ski all the way down to the bottom. You could literally ski 2,000 vertical feet.”

At the same time, the gentle environmental approach used to cut the glades will barely scar the land or rake the appearance of Burnt Mountain, which sits beside 4,237-foot Sugarloaf Mountain.

It will not have the wide ski trails of traditional ski areas.

That means leaf peepers in the fall, fishermen in the spring and hikers through the summer will notice little difference when they look out upon Burnt Mountain, Diller said. From the stores and pubs next to the Base Lodge there will be no sign that a change has occurred under the nearby treetops.

“You may see some semblance of more snow and less trees on Route 27, when you come around ‘Oh-My-Gosh’ corner, but not in the village,” Diller said.

Of the 655 acres that will be cut for glades, 120 acres in buffer zones around some of the basin’s 18 streams will not be cut or changed in any way, said Stephen Mohr, the project’s environmental consultant with Mohr & Seredin in Portland.

And of that 535 acres of skiable terrain in the glades, about 50 percent will be cut by hand because it lies in an Alpine zone above 2,700 feet, which is a more fragile ecological area, Mohr said.

“The soil is more fragile. The frost doesn’t melt as it does in other locations,” Mohr said.

Mountain crews will thin the woodland, limb the trees and put the fallen wood in low spots to help fill in holes, said Roddy Ehrlenbach, the Sugarloaf trail crew foreman.

The bark will erode and create an environmentally clean forest floor without the tread of chippers and skidders running over the land, Ehrlenbach said.

Mountain crews were expected to receive a permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection Friday and to start cutting Monday.

Ehrlenbach said by the time snow flies, the first section — 270 acres of glades — will be cut.

“We’re leaning more toward manual everything on the west side,” said Ehrlenbach. “But we’ll easily get it done, by the time the snow makes opening that terrain necessary. I’ve walked it a couple of times.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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