New quad chairlift to replace Spillway East at Sugarloaf for 2011-12 season

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Woohoo! That choral whoop of joy you heard coming from Maine’s western mountains late this morning was that of skiers and snowboarders upon hearing Sugarloaf announce that it is replacing the Spillway chairlift with a new, fixed-grip, wind-resistant quad chair enhanced by a conveyor loading system. Yessirree folks, there’s one happy dance going on up in these parts right now.

The new quad, outlined in Sugarloaf’s visionary 2020 plan, is part of $4.3 million in off-season improvements, which also include expansion of the gladed side-country terrain at Burnt Mountain and upgrading the drive system of the SuperQuad lift (and for that, ‘loafers are thankful, too).

ANALYSIS: As a loafer, I can tell you that this new lift is one welcome piece of news. Locals had been sweating, worrying that since the current chair had been fixed and reopened, that a new one might not happen. Spillway is a crucial lift at the loaf. It rides the mountain’s spine. From it’s apex, it’s possible to access a lift to any other part of the mountain in one run. It’s the key link between east-west traffic.

Of course, as an aging double plagued with wind issues, it was never a sexy lift. Rather, it was the workhorse that serious skiers loved. Replacing it will upgrade its persona and likely change lift-use patterns—stay tuned for next season.

NUMBERS: The lift will travel 3,746 feet, rise 1,457 vertical feet, feature a total of 16 towers, will be powered by a 400 horsepower motor, and travel up to 500 feet per minute. An additional 400 horsepower Cummins Diesel engine will serve as a backup.

BURNT MOUNTAIN: An additional 135 acres of glades is slated  to open for 2011-2012. This will provide access to a second above-treeline area at the summit of Burnt and should open new lines on some of the steepest and most challenging terrain at Sugarloaf. The new terrain will bring Sugarloaf’s total acreage to 1,056 developed, skiable acres, the most in the East (until someone proves otherwise).