Sugarloaf Outlines West Mountain Expansion & Future Lift Upgrades

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Boyne Resorts will embark on a major investment campaign at Sugarloaf in the coming years called Sugarloaf 2030, similar to plans revealed recently for Big Sky, Loon Mountain and Sunday River.  The central Maine resort will begin work this summer on a 450 acre expansion of West Mountain with a variety of new trails.  The area will eventually feature a big new lift.  As part of the expansion, the current West Mountain double will be shortened to about half its current length.  The expansion includes a modest new base area with expanded parking, tubing and a small lodge.

West Mtn Hero 3

“This development will expand Sugarloaf’s beginner and intermediate terrain, and will greatly alleviate traffic congestion at the SuperQuad by shifting significant numbers of riders to this new area,” says the Sugarloaf 2030 website. “Several options are being considered for size and type of lift for this location, with lift construction expected to begin in the summer of 2021.”  The lift will be designed with foot passengers in mind as Bullwinkle’s will see expanded use for weddings and conferences.  West Mountain will also be home to a future lift-served mountain bike park.  “This will be the most significant project at Sugarloaf since the SuperQuad was built in the mid 1990s,” noted Sugarloaf General Manager Karl Strand. “We’re thankful for leadership of Boyne Resorts, which, over the past 13 years, has helped us get Sugarloaf to a position of growth that allows for development projects like this.”

Lifts across the mountain will be replaced over the next decade.  Timberline, a Borvig quad serving the summit will be replaced with another new lift supporting varied year round experiences.  A third near term priority is the Double Runner double-double, which is approaching 50 years of age.  A new quad would better serve ski school programs and increase out-of-base capacity.  Carrabassett Valley Academy also plans to partner with Sugarloaf on a new alpine training surface lift servicing race trails above Double Runner.

Further out, Boyne plans to replace two more aging quads.  A new King Pine would run in a modified alignment with better wind resistance and improved reliability.  A future SuperQuad replacement is more about increasing capacity with state-of-the-art equipment.

Between this new plan, Sunday River’s vision announced two weeks ago and the rebirth of Saddleback, the 2020s are already proving to be an exciting time in Maine.  The Pine Tree State is well positioned to be a great place to ski in a changing climate and companies are responding with big investment plans.

32 thoughts on “Sugarloaf Outlines West Mountain Expansion & Future Lift Upgrades

  1. Gavin February 18, 2020 / 10:39 am

    Interesting expansion. Wonder if wiffletree and skyline will get replaced as well. Hope the SuperSix comes to fruition.

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  2. Max Hart February 18, 2020 / 11:02 am

    I’m almost thinking there will be a massive joint order between SR and Loaf for 2021. That’s likely Barker, Jordan, and West Mountain. The new West Mountain lift seems like it’s going to be a detachable six pack (bubbles? not clear on that, it seems like the type of lift on that alignment is still very fluid and subject to change), and the logical upgrades for Jordan and Barker are six-packs (I tend to think that both will have bubbles if/when the upgrades take place). That’s three lifts that will likely be very similar and it would make a lot of sense to build and install them at the same time side-by-side.

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  3. xlr8r February 18, 2020 / 11:29 am

    After listening to last weeks Storm podcast and looking at this plan I think Jordan will be relocated to Sugarloaf as this new West mountain lift.

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    • xlr8r February 18, 2020 / 11:35 am

      Nevermind, did not initially see that this lift will be designed for foot traffic as well, must be new, probably a chondola.

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      • Carleton Gebhardt February 18, 2020 / 12:49 pm

        It seems to be off the beaten path to put a chondola over there (although I agree, that it might make sense for ‘foot traffic’). It’s not central to the ski area overall, to put in that kind of ‘signature’ lift, especially when they are not talking about upgrades to key lifts like the Superquad till year five or so… But you may be right….

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  4. skiz February 18, 2020 / 12:23 pm

    i noticed that on the dev. maps, the sawduster lift is missing

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    • Max Hart February 18, 2020 / 1:08 pm

      There’s also something on the skier’s right of L. Narrow Gauge which proceeds to run up No. 3 T’s line. Skyline is noticeably absent from the map, as is Skidway. The Double Runners are either mushed into one line on the map or that single line on DRW’s alignment is the alignment of of DRCs’ replacement.

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      • CharlesO February 18, 2020 / 2:23 pm

        I’m pretty sure those are goofs on the map.

        Liked by 1 person

        • CharlesO February 18, 2020 / 2:49 pm

          Which have now been fixed. :-)

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Meir K. February 18, 2020 / 2:41 pm

    So, this is where the Barnstormer (from Haystack) is going? As we know it’s not Loon not Sunday River…

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    • Meir K. February 18, 2020 / 3:21 pm

      Not Loon nor Sunday River.

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      • Carleton February 18, 2020 / 3:54 pm

        I don’t think that anyone can make plans about that lift, given all the likely legal hurdles of that process. But assuming they did, it seems like the place for it – unless Boyne corporate is not telling their resorts which one is getting it :-) If they do want to accommodate foot traffic to their revamped Bullwinkles for weddings/conferences – then, as someone suggested, they may want to convert it to a chondola.

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  6. Alan February 18, 2020 / 6:56 pm

    I’m interested in the proposed summit building revitalization. Killington’s Peak Lodge seems to do well (I think) so it’s surprising they would have that be a late phase project vs doing it earlier. There’s something surreal about being at the top of the ‘Loaf.

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    • CharlesO February 19, 2020 / 9:05 am

      I don’t know if they’re planning to make it accessible for summer use, as opposed to just having it be a winter summit lodge. The only way to get people up there would be via a replacement lift for Timberline that runs from Bullwinkle’s (where the new West Mountain quad will go). Which they are planning to do, but a lift run directly between would cut across the entire upper mountain trail network and would be really exposed to wind, so I’m guessing they’d either have to put in an angle station where the current base terminal is ($$$) or have it start a ways down off the back side from Bullwinkle’s, which is fine for skiers but not so much for summer use. Or they could replace the old gondola, but they’ve said they’re not going to do that. :-(

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      • Somebody February 19, 2020 / 10:35 am

        I don’t know why they won’t put in a base to summit gondola tbh. It would cut the base-summit lap time in half and ease congestion on almost every lift.

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        • Mike B February 19, 2020 / 11:13 am

          Except when it’s on wind hold, which can be a frequent occurrence in northern Maine, at which point your $20M investment in base to summit lift capacity is worth exactly zero. Ops matters – it’s not all about how a lift impacts your ability to pile up vertical.

          Liked by 3 people

        • Somebody February 19, 2020 / 3:15 pm

          Wouldn’t $20m buy you a wind resistant 3s?

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        • Mike B February 19, 2020 / 3:40 pm

          1) I don’t think you can get a 3S for that amount. Others on this blog would know far better than me. IIRC, Peak to Peak cost $50M, and that’s the only 3S I’m aware of in North American ski country

          2) Even if it were “just” $20M, I can’t imagine a resort with 200-300K skier visits, and a long-ass drive from everywhere, ever finding a way to make that investment pencil out for a single lift.

          3) I am not aware of any material group of Loaf skiers who desperately pine for the ability to do 2500 vertical foot laps from top to bottom. The only people I see talk about this are gondola fetishists who just want to see cool machinery.

          Simply implementing the changes envisioned in Sugarloaf 2030 will do far more to impact the skiing experience than putting in a gondola replacement. Hell – they could do the West Mtn pod, new Timberline and new Superquad for about what it would take to do that gondola. No points for guessing which investment would appeal to the broadest possible cross-section of the market and have the biggest impact on how the mountain actually skis.

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        • skitheeast February 19, 2020 / 5:31 pm

          I do not know how much a 3S at Sugarloaf would cost, but I think using Peak 2 Peak as a base is not fair. That lift has a huge span over a massive valley, is roughly 60%-70% longer than a theoretical Sugarloaf base to summit gondola, and has a relatively flat elevation profile. Plus, I think a funitel, like Gold Coast at Squaw Valley, would perform better in wind and be a better idea. Also, I am not advocating for or against a Sugarloaf base to summit gondola.

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        • Snow Boys February 19, 2020 / 7:23 pm

          Yes but @skitheeast funitels are hideously expensive

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        • skitheeast February 19, 2020 / 11:45 pm

          I am not saying they are inexpensive, but when compared to a 3S gondola, they become more reasonable. Again, I am not advocating for or against a base to summit gondola, but rather pointing out what would theoretically make sense.

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        • Chris February 20, 2020 / 7:13 am

          3S Gondolas are the answer to the extreme technical complexities of the rope haul in Funitels, and designed to be cheaper while being almost as wind stable. I do not expect new Funitels to be built.

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        • Meir K. February 21, 2020 / 5:49 am

          What’s about 2S gondolas? You seem to have forgotten about them.

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        • CharlesO February 21, 2020 / 8:14 pm

          A 3S would be complete overkill here; there is not even remotely a need for that much capacity. I have always thought that a modern MGD would have less of a problem with the winds than the old Gondola, with its light fiberglass cabins. But I’m definitely in the “gondola fetishists who just want to see cool machinery” category. :-)

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      • Max Hart February 21, 2020 / 7:14 am

        I don’t know why we’re still having the gondola discussion. Stephen Kircher has said (on the Storm Skiing Podcast) that Sugarloaf is getting a signature lift, and said lift will not be a gondola and it will not be on the alignment of the old gondola. There are two reasons for this: one being that Sugarloaf is not skied top to bottom, the mountain just isn’t laid out that way. You ski either off of Whiffletree, King Pine, Skyline, Double Runners (beginners, basically the beginner area is front and center), Timberline, and the SuperQuad. Often times those lifts are lapped because the trail network allows for lapping off of those lifts. Really the trail layout has not changed that much since the early 1960s. It’s a bit strange to think that on one mountain they have managed to get a bunch of distinct trail pods, but that is the case. The other reason the Loaf isn’t getting a gondola is wind; Sugarloaf is a windy place, and the gondola alignment is very exposed for most of the upper lift line. The other issue is that a lift on the Gondi’s alignment wouldn’t directly service many trails. Above the Spillway X-Cut (the trail runs along the base of the snowfields that most of Skyline’s rider’s use to access the middle of the mountain), the only snowmaking trails from the summit are Gondi Line, White Nitro, Narrow Gauge, Tote Road, and Timberline (of which two are beginner and intermediate). It just doesn’t make sense to dump thousands of riders per hour (gondi + timberline) on those trails that are coming directly from the base area that will end up on terrain serviced by Skyline and the SuperQuad anyways. The current lift and trail layout works, however some of the lifts could use some upgrades in terms of capacity

        Liked by 1 person

        • Alan February 21, 2020 / 7:27 am

          While in general I agree with you, one aspect I disagree with is that in my opinion, a lift that can service the entire front face (above the Double Runner base area) would be useful. I would love to be able to come from the summit down the front face and get back up there with one lift ride, as opposed to the ride up Skyline, then a leisurely and mostly uneventful and crowded run to Timberline, then a slow ride to the top.

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  7. Bruce February 20, 2020 / 5:39 pm

    Surprised Boyne is putting all this money into a low/no profit resort. I have no idea how any investments in Sugarloaf other than for safety can possibly be justified. The ROIC (Return on Invested Capital) has to be horrible on almost any project at the Loaf. Three unsolvable problems; too far, too windy, too cold.

    I would think Boyne would be far better off allocating their Eastern capital to Loon and Sunday River since they are both quite profitable and have earned further investment. Profitability wise, Sugarloaf is by far the weakest of the 3.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Snow Boys February 20, 2020 / 7:03 pm

      They are just probably doing it because the lifts need more capacity/they are getting old and they probably want to allocate more people to come to Sugarloaf so they can make more profit off it.

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    • skitheeast February 20, 2020 / 8:07 pm

      Sugarloaf, with the proper marketing and infrastructure, has the potential to be quite profitable. I know a fair amount of people from Maine who love the mountain because it does not get the NJ/NY/CT/RI/MA crowds. Portland, ME has a metro area of 500 thousand and is a reasonable 2.5 hours away. Its northern location also keeps temperatures colder, therefore better holding its snow, which will undoubtedly be a snowmaking cost advantage as the planet continues to warm.

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  8. DBER February 21, 2020 / 8:13 am

    I routinely make the 4+ hr drive from Boston to ski at the Loaf. Long top to bottom runs are a treat, and easy enough to accomplish via SuperQuad+Timberline. Otherwise, the ‘pod’ skiing arrangement that has been discussed helps disperse crowds around the mountain. I see many ways in which a base to summit gondola would do more harm than good including wind holds and crowding in the wrong places. As for why Boyne would invest…while it does have big factors to overcome (location, weather), this is a marquee mountain in the northeast, only 2.5 hours away from a booming city (Portland). Any serious skier/rider needs to go here…the terrain is on par or better than any mountain on this coast, from beginner to expert, except there are fewer crowds. On a select few days each year, I’d rather be here than anywhere else in the USA. The glades are killer, especially the ones not on the map. This mountain is a jewel and I’m happy Boyne recognizes it! The expansion only supports my reasoning to make the silly-long drive most weekends.

    Liked by 3 people

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