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by Sam Bass
I’ve caught a lot of grief for the number of times I’ve written about Sugarloaf, Maine, on Skiing‘s various channels over the past decade. “You’re not supposed to reveal your biases,” my coworkers have told me. Others in my adopted state of Colorado have been more blunt, questioning my loyalty to and pride in something so clearly inferior (their words) as the quality of the skiing in northern New England.
With regard to the charge of always defaulting to Sugarloaf, I’m guilty. But it’s where I grew up skiing, and we write about what we know, right? Memories of a place are limited by time spent there, and I have a magazine to run, so I was a little annoyed a few months back when Skiing‘s sister mag Ski asked me to write a so-called “Ode to the Loaf.” I didn’t want to waste a precious Loaf vignette on Ski when Skiing deserved every last one of them, but domineering older siblings (Ski is 79 while Skiing is 67) tend to cannabalize—plus, our two titles supposedly share a staff—so I acquiesced.
With regard to the alleged superiority of western snow and topography, don’t even get me started…
I love Sugarloaf and always will. It has been a gathering place for my family since the ’40s, before the mountain officially opened as a commercial enterprise. It was the setting of so many coming-of-age lessons about skiing and life, for my sisters and cousins and me and for my father and aunts and uncles before us. So it was with great interest that I watched the mini-documentary below about Sugarloaf’s 1971 World Cup, recently put together by Taylor Walker of Sugarloaf Mountain’s marketing department, with contributions from the Sugarloaf Ski Club and the Ski Museum of Maine.
The races happened a few years before I was born, but I grew up hearing stories about this legendary event, like the one about the fire that destroyed the van carrying all of the Swiss team’s equipment and how racers from other teams donated gear so the Swiss could race. One family yarn has it that my grandfather Robert “Bunny” Bass, as he hung medals on the necks of the female winners during the awards ceremony, kissed each one of them, to my grandmother Martha’s great chagrin.
The old footage is fascinating to watch, and it’s sewn together with great firsthand illuminations from Bruce Miles, Jean Luce, Gail Blackburn, and Don Fowler—all longtime Loafers. There’s even a cameo of my dad, Peter, at 3:19, spectating the 1971 races as a 20-year-old, sporting a hat and facial-hair style in keeping with early ’70s zeitgeist, and wearing some very fast looking white goggles (see picture above). He wore them, he told me when I confronted him with the footage, because “Karl Schranz wore them.”
It’s also worth noting that Sugarloaf just pulled off another US National Championships, and did so flawlessly, by all of the accounts I’ve heard. US Ski Team luminaries and hopefuls were on hand, no vans caught fire, and the weather was apparently outstanding. And in case you missed them, Sugarloaf has been posting great race shots on its Facebook page.
No matter what mountain you call home, this video is worth a view. If nothing else, even the most condescending Western skiers will have to admit that we Mainers have always been quite fashion-forward.
Sam Bass is Skiing‘s editor-in-chief.
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