Insiders Guide to Ski Racing Sugarloaf: Narrow Gauge with Sam Morse

From small local hills to mega resorts, we bring you the insiders guide, where SYNC Athletes share secrets to success and local knowledge about their home mountain.

Tell us a little about yourself:

Sam Morse, 22 years old, born and raised at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. Attended Carrabassett Valley Academy and now attend Dartmouth College in the off season. Nick named Moose. Been on the national team five years.

What's your relationship this mountain and trail?

I grew up on the slopes of Sugarloaf. All my friends skied when I was a kid and it is just what you did. Narrow Gauge has always been the race trail at Sugarloaf. I can remember being a kid watching Bode race US Nationals on Narrow Gauge. Sugarloaf is a skiers mountain and the community has always heavily supported ski racing. It was the best place to grow up as a ski racer.

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Do not attempt or your tongue might freeze off

To someone who's never raced there, explain Narrow Gauge:

Narrow Gauge has that old time New England feel as the trail is narrow and twists and turns its way down the mountain. When racing on it you turn when the trail turns... and that is it. It's really all about the snow conditions of Narrow Gauge  (and Sugarloaf overall).

I like to call it "all nature injection". In Maine, it ain’t ice unless there are fish swimming under it, but the Gauge does get pretty firm after a January thaw that then turns sub zero.

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We get it, it's cold out there


Keys to nailing a run:

The headwall is the crux of the run, as the trail turns around a tree island and gets really steep. I’m not going to give away all my secrets, but you need to try and run the pitch as clean as possible to take speed onto the lower flats. It gets extremely narrow and one small slip up and you’ll end up in the woods but you’ve got to risk it for the biscuit.

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 So that's what "risk it for the biscuit" means...

What type of skier does well there?

Someone who is used to skiing on narrow trails and is built to handle ice and cold.

Got a favorite memory you'd like to share?

In 2014, the year I made the US Ski Team, during speed week in January I put together a downhill run that felt flawless for where I was at with my skiing at the time. I remember getting to the bottom and being totally satisfied with how I skied knowing I had nailed all the spots. This is the only time in my career I’ve felt like that, I did end up winning by over a second, humble brag.

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Chicken dinner... with biscuits


Any recommendations on the Sugarloaf area while in town?

Once you have frost bit your face running downhill on Narrow Gauge there is only one place to go: D’Ellies Bakery right at the base of the mountain to grab something warm and tell your tale with your friends of how you almost just died.

 

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Tell us more about that D'Ellie's Super Italian Sandwich please?


Any funny stories about Sugarloaf or Narrow Gauge?

During speed week, one January back in the day, legendary coach Chip Cochrane built a fire at the top of the headwall in the Icebox. The Icebox is where the coaches stand on skiers right at the top of the pitch and the sun never hits this part of the hill. When I was coming down, I could see a smokey haze and smell wood smoke as I broke over the steepest part of the course.


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Claiming it after surviving Narrow Gauge. But seriously, can you tell us more about those sandwiches?

Thanks to Sam Morse for sharing - be sure to follow him on his World Cup pursuits at https://www.instagram.com/sammorseski/   

Interested in supporting Sam? https://worldcupdreams.org/blogs/current-fundraisers/sam-morse

Leave us requests for future trails in the comments below! 

About the Author

Pro ski racer Sam Morse

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