At age 12, I made my first turns down Sugarloaf’s trails, then narrow and twisting, during spring break. Although a beginner, I followed my chum Diana and her mountain-brat friends, all of whom had been skiing since they could toddle. Not only did I survive intact, but I also left with a tan that rivaled […]
By Hilary Nangle
Feb 22 2022
Spring skiing at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. See more in “The Giddy Season.”Photo Credit : Courtesy of Sugarloaf
At age 12, I made my first turns down Sugarloaf’s trails, then narrow and twisting, during spring break. Although a beginner, I followed my chum Diana and her mountain-brat friends, all of whom had been skiing since they could toddle. Not only did I survive intact, but I also left with a tan that rivaled those of friends who had spent vacations sprawled on Florida beaches. Of course, it was a raccoon-eyed goggle tan, but heck, what a souvenir. Even better, I now counted myself a Sugarloafer. Decades later, I still am.
Every spring rekindles a wild, childlike abandon in going everywhere on this pyramid-shaped Maine mountain just because I can. I love the sun’s warmth on my face, listening to winter-dormant streams giggle and gurgle, and inhaling that only-in-spring, life-renewing, earthy aroma rising from bare spots where the snow has surrendered. After months dressed in mostly white and gray, the mountain is sprinkled with confetti colors. Mardi Gras beads dangle from tree branches, and the trails are brightened by vintage ski duds adorned with blooming flowers, tie-dye patterns, and crazy stripes.
Spring is the reward for surviving a frigid and blustery winter, when the sun barely clears the Sugarloaf summit. But the same winds that drive temperatures down to—well, let’s just not talk about that—also blow snow across the summit, blanketing Sugarloaf’s crown jewel, the above-treeline Snowfields. When I slide off the summit chair, I take a few minutes to take in the view, from Mount Washington to Katahdin. Then I join the steady stream of skiers and riders hiking to their fields of dreams. My reward: the joy of backcountry skiing.
Joy is infectious at this time of year. Spontaneous parties erupt trailside and on the deck of Bullwinkle’s, Sugarloaf’s mid-mountain lodge. As the day progresses, the party moves to the Beach, that area in front of the base lodge where you can sit back, relax, sip a cool one, and watch the antics of those still on the mountain. The party reaches a crescendo during Reggae Fest, when live bands perform outside during the day and inside at night.
Truth is, spring can be fickle and often elusive, especially since March and April tend to be Sugarloaf’s snowiest months. Yet even then, though I crave spring’s promise, I still get that tingle of anticipation when I see the first snowflakes of a promised storm. When dawn reveals fresh snow paired with vivid blue skies and brilliant sunshine, my inner child awakens, and I race out the door eager to score first tracks.
Sugarloaf’s annual spring party, Reggae Fest, is set for April 7–10. For event details, skiing conditions, and more, go to sugarloaf.com.