As a low pressure system develops over the Mid-Atlantic states and is slated to combine forces with another coming off the Great Lakes then form into what is known in these parts as a Nor'easter, my phone starts ringing with myself and friends planning on how we can take full advantage of what the storm brings. These large winter storms that plow into the Maine coast bring ample snow to the mountains and in their wake usually supply the coast with clear skies, offshore winds and peeling waves. As the storm arrives early in the afternoon with some light snow, the forecast calls for it to transition to heavy snow squalls of 2-3 inches per hour throughout the night.
In the morning, we wake up to a white blanket of about 12-16 inches of light joyous powder and it's still dumping. Our morning starts early with a hike up Sugarloaf before the lifts open. This morning we hike up the west side to hit one of our favorite little glades and a survey line that was cut a few years back. The snow is light, fluffy and about knee deep - perfect conditions to rip some turns through the trees, and then be one of the first in line for the lift opening. Sugarloaf has carved out a niche in New England resorts by developing an area off the east side called Bracket Basin where the glades, shoots, and cliffs are second to none. On this day however, we chose to search out some small creek beds and glades that others might not be aware of. The excitement and energy level is pinned to an all-time high and we're rewarded with fresh tracks and face shots all day long. Sugarloaf is my home mountain and a place that is very special to me, not only because of its beauty and world-class terrain, but also because of the quality and dedication of the people that live here.
After our epic day we head down to the Rack, a popular restaurant and bar owned by some friends that was recently voted one of the best ski town bars in the country. When you walk in, it's easy to see why: everyone is welcoming, the music is awesome, and the food is second to none. The place is packed, and we meet up with more friends and talk about the excitement of the day. Everyone wants to describe their run of the day. Sugarloaf is the kind of place where there's something for everyone, and memories are made that last a lifetime.
When we finish with our dinner we take a shuttle back to my place where we check the buoy reports and forecasted wind directions for tomorrow. Turns out we're in for another epic day. The winds of a typical Nor'easter provide the Maine coast with large swells. After the storm passes, the skies are usually clear with an offshore (west or northwest) wind. These conditions are perfect for surfing. On this day the water temperature is around 38 degrees and the air temperature is around 10 with a forecasted high of 20.
As we drove down to the coast through the winter wonderland of fresh snow, we argued over the best place to go. It always seems like surfing is about the hunt for the perfect wave, and the thrill of the chase. Today the buoys are reporting a southeast swell of 10 feet every 12 seconds and WNW winds at 15-20 knots. For those who may not know: that's pumping.
We agree on a secluded spot that is inhabited by mostly summer homes and take a chance driving down a private unplowed road. As we get to the end of the road we're rewarded by clean peeling barrels in the distance. Quickly, we all gear up and squeeze into our 6 millimeters of rubber, extremely grateful for the advances in wetsuit technology. We trudge down through the knee-deep snow and have to paddle across a creek before our hike through more snow to the low tide break. Turns out we're the only people for miles around and A-frame waves are just waiting for us.
The paddle out is a bit of a shock to the system but we all acclimate to the cold, heavy water. In an instant, a friend catches the first wave, and all I see is his silhouette as he drops into a bomb and gets shacked by whitewater. I can only describe the day as dark gray barrels furling across the perfect blue sky with snow-covered beach and handful of friends hooting and hollering like teenagers. None of us wanted to get out of the water, but in fact after a couple of hours our arms felt like spaghetti and our bodies were spent...but our souls were filled with a joy and satisfaction few ever have the pleasure to experience, and only found in this great state.
Those looking for the ultimate action-packed getaway will find it at Sugarloaf. Infamous for being both a resort and a mountain, Sugarloaf is located in Carrabassett Valley. Known as Maine's tallest winter resort with a 4,237-foot summit, adrenaline-enthusiasts can hit the slopes and then treat themselves to a warm meal and entertainment.
When an all-day excursion at Sugarloaf has your tummy rumbling, head a mile down the road and grab some grub at The Rack, owned in part by Seth Wescott, an Olympic medalist. Nosh on ribs, burgers, pizza and more while you soak up the laid-back atmosphere.
For other dining options and lodging in the Sugarloaf area, check out Maine's High Peaks.
There's never a shortage of fresh powder. Discover a slew of Maine's incredible slopes, like Camden Snow Bowl, Sunday River, Saddleback and more.
And, don't forget that you're not limited to just the mountains. Dive into the waters and find out why surfing in Maine is so popular. So come on and grab your wetsuit because the water's just fine.