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Sugarloaf or Sunday River?

Tonyr

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I've hiked Sunday River before but have never skied either mountain. The infrastructure at Sunday River looked really nice but I'm guessing Sugarloaf has the better terrain comparing both trail maps.

We plan on doing two days at either Ikon resort then a day at Saddleback. Is Sugarloaf the better place to ski all things being equal? In any event, my son and I are looking forward to our first ski trip up that way. Thanks in advance for the advice!
 

urungus

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If your son is up for it, Sugarloaf has some unique options like above tree line skiing in The Snowfields, Burnt Mountain Cat skiing, and the massive glades of Brackett Basin.
 

thebigo

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When are you going?

Best option is to wait until the last possible minute before deciding. Sugarloaf best in the east on a perfect spring day with base. Can be brutal when weather doesn't cooperate.
 
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Tonyr

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When are you going?

Best option is to wait until the last possible minute before deciding. Sugarloaf best in the east on a perfect spring day with base. Can be brutal when weather doesn't cooperate.

We are going over MLK weekend. Other than last year, I've had pretty good luck conditions wise over MLK weekend but know very well that skiing the East on any given weekend is a crap shoot. Was just wondering which mountain is better under good conditions.
 

Tonyr

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If your son is up for it, Sugarloaf has some unique options like above tree line skiing in The Snowfields, Burnt Mountain Cat skiing, and the massive glades of Brackett Basin.

Yes, that is all stuff we would like! Not sure if the Snowfields will be open by mid January or not but I'm hoping Brackett Basin will be.
 

chuckstah

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Over MLK weekend I would definitely book Sunday River, much better chance of decent conditions. I personally have given up booking Sugarloaf anytime before mid-march, and preferably not until the day before as conditions can change drastically from day to day. Given equal conditions Sugarloaf certainly has the better terrain, but if you booked Sunday River you can always make the 2-hour drive to ski Sugarloaf if conditions warrant.
 

thebigo

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MLK weekend = Sunday River and book early.

Edit - you mentioned saddleback, not sure if you have an indy pass, BMOM a good option to avoid crowds.
 
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Tonyr

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Brackett is rarely open before the end of January.

That is interesting, thanks for the heads up. I guess Maine doesn't get as much snow as Northern VT does. Other than last season I've had pretty good luck in Northern VT over MLK weekend.

Based on what your saying, I think we'll ski Saddleback on Friday, drive over to Sugarloaf and ski it on Saturday. If conditions are good we'll stay and ski there on Sunday too otherwise we'll head down to Sunday River and ski there if Sugarloaf conditions are bad.
 

deadheadskier

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Maine doesn't get as much snow as VT, but Sugarloaf and Saddleback preserve what they get very well. It's kinda a slow build, but then come March their base depths in the trees can exceed VT.
 

Tonyr

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MLK weekend = Sunday River and book early.

Edit - you mentioned saddleback, not sure if you have an indy pass, BMOM a good option to avoid crowds.

I don't have an Indy Pass, just Ikon this season.
 

Tonyr

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Maine doesn't get as much snow as VT, but Sugarloaf and Saddleback preserve what they get very well. It's kinda a slow build, but then come March their base depths in the trees can exceed VT.

Good to know. I guess we should have gone up there in March instead. That was originally the plan but I had a decent sized airline credit that was expiring so I had to use it and just booked a flight out to Utah for the end of March. We are going to ski Brighton and Solitude for the first time so hopefully we'll get lucky there snow wise.
 

MadPadraic

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I'd do Sugarloaf even over MLK. Sugarloaf's groomers off of Superquad and Skyline are better than most at Sunday River, and crucially they ski off later in the day. SR is mostly skiied off by 10:30.

That being said, SR does have some fun spots. For steep stuff White Heat (SR) can sometimes feel longer than Nitro and Gondi (SL).

If you would enjoy a pretty darn unique trail --like a natural half pipe with bumps and low walls--Misery Whip (SL) should be open by then.
The major risk factor with SL is that if Superquad goes down (are they replacing it this year?) then the whole mountain gets jammed up.

If you ignore my advice and take all the previous pro-SR posts (which is a very reasonable thing to do), and if there is a big storm, then don't fret. Sunday River has lots of fun ways to take advantage of a blizzard, and most are marked right on the trail map.

For what its worth, I think the lunch spots at Sugarloaf are better (the burrito place, bagel place and the bag all seem to be independently run). For S.R. Sud's pub in Bethel is a wholesome place to bring your kid at night and listen to live music.
 

Tonyr

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I'd do Sugarloaf even over MLK. Sugarloaf's groomers off of Superquad and Skyline are better than most at Sunday River, and crucially they ski off later in the day. SR is mostly skiied off by 10:30.

That being said, SR does have some fun spots. For steep stuff White Heat (SR) can sometimes feel longer than Nitro and Gondi (SL).

If you would enjoy a pretty darn unique trail --like a natural half pipe with bumps and low walls--Misery Whip (SL) should be open by then.
The major risk factor with SL is that if Superquad goes down (are they replacing it this year?) then the whole mountain gets jammed up.

If you ignore my advice and take all the previous pro-SR posts (which is a very reasonable thing to do), and if there is a big storm, then don't fret. Sunday River has lots of fun ways to take advantage of a blizzard, and most are marked right on the trail map.

For what its worth, I think the lunch spots at Sugarloaf are better (the burrito place, bagel place and the bag all seem to be independently run). For S.R. Sud's pub in Bethel is a wholesome place to bring your kid at night and listen to live music.
Thanks for all of this advice, it is very helpful. I went back through Sugarloaf's Twitter feed from last season and noticed that Brackett Basin was opened by January 20th last season, which will be right around the timeframe that we are there this upcoming season. I'm definitely going to give SL a shot, if the conditions stink I'll drive down to Sunday River the next day.

Screenshot_20230808_225818_Chrome.jpg
 

deadheadskier

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See, I'd much rather ski SR on a groomer only day than SL. Not because of the terrain, but because they have more lifts and they have less wind issues.

At SL, if you are an advanced skier, you are basically skiing off of three lifts only during groomer days; King Pine, Skyline or the Superquad. Any one of those lifts goes down and you are in for a long day of frustrating lines.

Contrast that to SR where you have White Heat, Barker, Spruce, North Peak, Aurora and Jordan. Even Locke and Oz will likely spin if crowded. So, it's just easier to avoid lines / crowds. I don't mind waiting in longer lines to ski trees or bumps, but if it's groomers only I get frustrated with lines.
 
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