Five Mountain Trails to Ski Before You Die
FOR SOME PEOPLE, BUCKET LISTS ARE ARE ABOUT RESTAURANTS TO VISIT, OR BOOKS TO READ, OR CONCERTS TO GO TO. For skiers and snowboarders, they’re about checking off the best trails to be conquered. From massive resorts to small community hills, Maine has a wealth of terrain that you could spend a lifetime exploring. Here are five Maine ski trails that everyone should tackle at least once in a lifetime. They aren’t necessarily the most difficult trails in the state—there’s more to these experiences than an expression of raw skill—but they’re trails that are emblematic of the variety of skiing in Maine.
SUGARLOAF offers a wealth of options, from multiple miles cruising down Tote Road, to the snowfields that top its iconic logo, to the relatively wild chutes and glades of the ever-expanding Brackett Basin and Eastern Territory. However, no trail says Sugarloaf to me quite like Widowmaker. It’s a perfectly cut trail, which rides the fall line as it curves from the King Pine Bowl toward the rest of the mountain. Since being cut in the early 1960s, the trail has been one of the Loaf’s premier expert runs, even used by the U.S. Ski Team for training at one time.
At SUNDAY RIVER, there are almost too many runs to pick from, with eight peaks and more than 10 dozen trails. The cleverly advertised White Heat stands out to me. The trail, bisecting the White Cap peak on the resort’s eastern boundary, is a beast, to be sure. With an average pitch of about 30 degrees, and one side of the trail dedicated to burly moguls, it’s an exhausting and challenging run. But, more than just the terrain, I like the pitch that’s long been given for the trail—“the longest, widest, steepest lift-serviced trail in the Northeast.” It’s a good reminder of English classes and sentence structure; while there are longer trails, wider trails and steeper trails, none beat Sunday River at the combo of long, wide, and steep on a single trail.
At the CAMDEN SNOW BOWL, the Lookout trail provides a view you can’t get anywhere else. The Atlantic Ocean and the islands beyond Camden Harbor, spread out like a canvas. It’s a view you can get from a few places on the hill, but it’s best experienced on the appropriately named Lookout. The trail swings to skier’s right from the summit, just a short shot from the top of the triple chair installed at the resort a few years ago. The trail, a black diamond, offers both steeps and scenery, dropping dramatically towards Hosmer Pond and the Atlantic beyond through thin stands of trees.
I’d argue that Bull Moose at LOST VALLEY is emblematic of the community roots of Maine skiing. To really get the full experience, you’ve got to ski the trail on a weekday afternoon, when hundreds from school ski groups descend on the mountain. Kids swarm all over the trails and fill the lift, which runs over Bull Moose. It’s iconic in the sense that it shows the importance of Maine’s community hills in growing the sport, and gives any skier an experience akin to those of us who learned to ski this way. It’s one of the few black diamonds on the hill, and doubles at the race slope for the Auburn resort. Short and steep (you’ll only link a few turns from top to bottom), but wicked fun.
If you feel like showing off at one of Maine’s ski areas, take a few runs right under the Way Back Machine at MT ABRAM. The Cliff, one of the two double diamonds at the resort, is just that—a serious drop that just happens to be right under the lift, in full view of everyone. If you’ve got an exhibitionist streak, it’s a run where you can show off your skills to the assembled crowds. Just make sure you have the talent to back it up — otherwise, it’s a long trip down Fractured Fairy Tales under everyone on the lift.
Penobscot – Squaw Mountain
Saco – Black Mountain of Maine
T-Line – Shawnee Peak
— Text: Josh Christie. Josh is the author of a number of books on beer and the Maine outdoors, and co-owner of Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine.