CARRABASSETT VALLEY — When racers begin to enter the gates at the top of Sugarloaf’s Narrow Gauge trail Saturday morning, they’ll ski a course that’s been months in the prepping.

“Narrow Gauge has been known for testing the top athletes, so it’s almost a rite of passage,” Noelle Tuttle, Sugarloaf Communications Manager, said.

The U.S. Alpine Championships will take place at Sugarloaf, Saturday through Tuesday. The event begins Saturday morning with the men’s Super G at 9:45 a.m. This is the second time in three years Sugarloaf hosted the national championships, and sixth time hosting overall. Sugarloaf hosted in 2015, and also in 2008, 2006, 1997, and 1996.

While Narrow Gauge has been closed all week, prepping the trail for the national championships began months ago.

“It got a lot of snowmaking early in the season so have a good base,” Tuttle said.

Narrow Gauge became a racing trail in 1971, when Sugarloaf hosted a World Cup race. This week, crews are spending a lot of time installing safety net around the perimeter of the Narrow Gauge course. The elastic netting protects any fallen skier from sliding off the course. To work properly, the netting must be drilled deep into the snow, and in some spots the net is two or three sections deep.

“It takes a lot of man hours,” Tuttle said.

The Narrow Gauge course is just facet of hosting the national championships. The opening ceremonies are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, on the area surrounding Sugarloaf’s base lodge known as the Beach. The opening ceremonies feature the parade of athletes, national anthem, welcoming remarks, the awards presentation for Super G winners, and fireworks. Senator Angus King is scheduled to speak as well.

Tuttle said while it’s tough to compare with last winter, which was historically bad in terms of a lack of snow, but Sugarloaf does see an increase in reservations when it hosts the national championship.

“It’s pretty much all hands on deck,” Tuttle said. “People get really excited about it.”

One thing Sugarloaf has learned from previous times it has hosted the national championships is, make sure there’s plenty of signage and staff directing fans towards everything.

“A lot of people have never been to Sugarloaf before. There’s a lot going on, and we hate to have anybody miss any of it,” Tuttle said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM