Skiing in America

This week I had my first ski holiday in North America, at the Sugarloaf Mountain resort in Maine. I was there with the Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and it was a fabulous trip, comparing favorably with many resorts in Switzerland and Austria.

We drove 5 hours north from Boston and it was certainly worth it. The resort was superb; beautiful American backcountry with stunning scenery, plenty of challenging slopes and almost no-one in the lift queues (admittedly this was early in the week). The accommodation was fab, lovely snug little condos about a ten minute walk from the resort centre. Most importantly, we were blessed with good conditions; plenty of recent snow, decent visibility, even some sun and clear skies on the last day.

That said, there were some major differences with Europe. First, the lifts; the old uncovered 3- and 4-seaters you never see in Europe now (except France). I hate these lifts: they are deadly slow because there is only one drum, and you freeze if it’s windy or snowing because there is absolutely no cover. A second difference was the ski hire; standard good quality HEAD carving skis, but no twintips or soft skis to be had at any price (I like twintips for moguls and rough terrain). Presumably the hire market is different in the US; while everyone hires in Europe (because of the flights), most American skiers will bring their own gear by car. Finally, there was the cost; we got a great deal through the Harvard club, but I noticed the standard price for ski hire and lift pass was high, comparable with the big-name Swiss resorts.

Old-style skilifts

HEAD carving skis

Photos courtesy of Hertz Zi He

All in all I was sorry to leave. Term starts up at Harvard on Monday, but hopefully I’ll get some more skiing on the East coast in the spring.


What did I say about those lifts? I just heard that the resort had a major problem with one of their lifts just two weeks ago. One of the lift cables derailed, injuring six skiers and leaving dozens others stranded for several hours. You can read news reports of it here.

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