CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Ten inches of fresh snow helped Sugarloaf open the Brackett Basin glades for the first time this season on Saturday morning.
The skiing and snowboarding terrain is part of a three-phase glades expansion onto Burnt Mountain, which is next to Sugarloaf. Having it open should provide an important boost for the resort heading into the spring, according to Ethan Austin, communications manager at Sugarloaf.
About 60 acres of the thinly wooded expert-only terrain opened Saturday, after enough natural snow accumulated. Snowmaking machines can’t operate in the rugged terrain, which made its debut last year, Austin said.
Many of the traditional trails at the resort have been open for months, with steadily improving snow conditions since early January, Austin said.
The glade terrain that opened Saturday represents the first phase in the Brackett Basin expansion. Although it’s the same section that debuted last year, there are new features cut by crews who thinned more trees last summer, he said.
Sugarloaf ski patrollers opened the upper glades of Brackett Basin early Saturday morning, including Birler 1 and 2, Edger 1 and 2, Sweeper 1and 2, and Cant Dog 1 and 2, according to a resort release.
The lower glades — Rough Cut, Red Horse, Blacksmith, High Ball and Logging Road — and the first glades inside of the second phase of the project — Golden Road and the Eastern Territory — remain closed, according to the release.
The second phase features 135 acres and some of that work is already complete. A portion of that terrain is expected to open later this season, with Sugarloaf Ski Patrol estimating that at least another five inches of natural snow is needed.
The expansion will be completed in three phases, the first of which was the 270-acre Brackett Basin section opened last year. The third and final phase will be 250 acres, and will open the north face of Burnt Mountain, the release stated.
When the project is completed, the 655-acre glade terrain expansion will make Sugarloaf the largest ski area in the East, according to the news release.
Austin said there is no exact timetable for the expansion project, which is part of the resort’s 10-year upgrade plan called Sugarloaf 2020. Last year, the resort spent $4 million on upgrades, including $3 million spent to install the new Skyline chairlift, which opened this season.
With snowstorms in the forecast later this week, Austin said there are promising signs that a slow start to the skiing season will soon be erased by a great spring. Sugarloaf hopes to stay open into May, which the resort has done for the past five years, he said.
“There’s plenty of snow and it looks like it’s not going anywhere soon,” Austin said.
Access to the terrain on Burnt Mountain is via a cross-cut from the top of the existing King Pine quad chairlift. The terrain is for expert skiers and riders only, and they should not enter the terrain alone. Anyone who plans to ski the new terrain should check in with the ski patrol, Austin said.
Several people got lost skiing beyond the new terrain’s boundaries last year, and had to be rescued after they were stranded overnight. Austin said the resort this year added signs and ropes to mark the boundaries.
David Robinson — 861-9287