Sunday, January 6, 2013

Is Saddleback really a longer drive than Sugarloaf?

When talking with my southern Maine day-tripping skiing friends, the topic often comes to favorite mountains. Sugarloaf is often on the top of their list. Sugarloaf is a great mountain I agree, but when I ask them if they have skied Saddleback, the reply is often "Yes we did once. We had a really good time at Saddleback, but it is such a long drive to get there."

I respectfully disagree with this. Lets look at the facts.

Saddleback (Point B) and Sugarloaf (Point D) from the Rt 4 & 27 Intersection in Farmington.
The discussion for most people driving to Sugarloaf or Saddleback starts from the Rt 27 & 4 intersection just north of Farmington. Take a right on 27 to go to Sugarloaf. Stay straight on Route 4 for Saddleback.

  • To the parking areas, it is 44 miles to Saddleback and 37 miles to Sugarloaf. A difference of 7 miles. Not that much of a difference. Probably about 10-15 minutes of driving time.
  • Over the past 3-4 years, Route 4, particularly the climb out of Madrid to Rangeley, has been significantly improved. They have straightened out sections of the road (particularly one nasty hair-pin turn) and the pavement is in good condition. You no longer lose your teeth over frost heaves on most sections of the road. In fact the only marginal piece of road is a 3 mile stretch or so in the town of Madrid itself.
  • At Saddleback, you can drop your gear off right at the base lodge and the parking area is very close. You can boot up and click into your skis very quickly. At Sugarloaf, you have a shuttle ride to catch from the parking areas before you even step into the lodge. Ticketing is on a different floor than the main lodge area. I say that accounts for an extra 10-15 minutes of time getting on your skis at Sugarloaf at a minimum.
I have timed the drive from Farmington to Saddleback many times. It is consistently 50-55 minutes. I dare say the drive to Sugarloaf is very similar when you account for the shuttle ride.

There are many reasons to prefer one ski mountain over another. I love Sugarloaf and am perfectly happy when I ski there. There are a bunch of other reasons why @MaineSkiFamily prefers Saddleback to be our home mountain. I just don't accept the argument that it takes significantly longer to drive to Saddleback than Sugarloaf.

So if drive time is the only reason you are not skiing Saddleback, you are missing out on some outstanding Maine skiing in my humble opinion!

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