Snowy slopes are months away, but to the people of Carrabassett Valley and legions of Sugarloafers, next week will be like a celebration of winter.

Officials from the Michigan-based company that owns Sugarloaf will be at the ski area to announce the biggest expansion in decades: a huge development on 3,595-foot Burnt Hill that is expected to become the largest boundary-to-boundary glades skiing in New England.

Last winter Saddleback stole the distinction with its new 40-acre swath of glades called Casablanca. Sugarloaf’s expansion beside the main mountain is expected to be a few hundred acres.

Officials at Sugarloaf would not comment before Tuesday’s announcement. But the buzz around the 4,237-foot mountain has been ongoing for months.

Now with the impending announcement, it’s finally real.

“From a physical standpoint it’s the biggest mountain in the East. We were always regarded as such but we haven’t been able to capitalize on it I’m glad Boyne (Resorts) is finally putting some money into separating us again,” said local business owner and selectman Lloyd Cuttler, of Sugarloaf’s parent company.

“I don’t see a rush of new skiers, but what I do see is a separation from other ski areas. This would help us get there.”

Many think the new glades will draw new skiers and riders, although how many is a question.

Chip Carey of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming said the terrain is perfect for backcountry glades with a good incline, and Carey skied it when he worked at Sugarloaf from 1971-97.

The new glades will transform Sugarloaf, Carey said.

“It’s just plain fantastic skiing. Sugarloaf itself is designed on a fall line. That will continue over there. That will add a dimension that frankly has been missing,” Carey said.

In the West, Carey said backcountry skiing and riding in the trees is not only trendy, it is the future.

“What we’re finding in the ski industry is more and more people want to go off trail and explore. There’s a real strong following for that,” Carey said.

Kingfield lawyer Don Fowler, a Sugarloafer since 1957, who climbs the mountain to ski it until the snow is gone, can’t wait.

“It increases the capacity on the mountain and provides more terrain and more capacity without spending a whole heck of a lot of money. So that’s a plus. I think it sounds neat,” Fowler said.

“The people (skiing in the glades) are a fairly thin slice of the market. On the other hand, if you look to get people you might as well get those people. Why try to be a mascara mountain?”

And Sugarloaf Ski Club President Bruce Miles, a Sugarloafer since 1961, said the glades will be fun because it’s new — and he doesn’t even think he’ll ski it.

Plenty of other Sugarloafers already are backcountry skiing around the mountain. Many are excited, hopeful and worried. They see great potential in the glades.

“Sugarloaf has a tremendous amount of soul and a lot of character. I think this fits in nicely. It’s always been an athletic mountain,” said Cooper Friend, a Sugarloafer since the early 1960s and glade skier for years.

Jeff Strunk, part owner of the pub and restaurant, The Rack, said locals have been backcountry skiing and riding on Burnt Hill for 15 years, so developing the glades there was a natural.

Now he just hopes the glades are cut well; not just opened up for various abilities.

It should stay expert terrain Strunk said.

“Sugarloaf’s mentality has always been wide trails, open things up to cater to the masses. I think everyone is concerned how they’ll do it. It’s got a great ridge line with steep slopes and small cliffs,” Strunk said.

“It’s a bummer we’re going to lose it as far as the locals go. But there is other terrain. We’ll just migrate,” he added with a laugh.

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

[email protected]


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