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Love of Loaf logo spans decades, continents

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HEATHER BURKE / SKIING
January 24, 2010
Sugarloafers even slap stickers at sister resort Sunday River.
Ian Burke photo

Like the Nike swoop, the Sugarloaf logo is immediately identifiable — in fact, it's arguably the most recognizable symbol in American skiing. The clever mountain logo that was designed back in 1959 has become a cult phenomenon. Skiers carry Sugarloaf stickers to remote places around the globe and place them on high-profile heralded spots.

The Sugarloaf logo now appears on all seven continents, including recently added Antarctica. There is a Facebook fan page for it, and the famed sticker even has its own Web site, www.sugarloafsticker.com, where you can post photos of exotic places where you have spotted or stuck the Sugarloaf sticker.

Chip Carey, former marketing VP for Sugarloaf (now at Jackson Hole in Wyoming), says the logo was developed for the 1960 season by Bob Tyler, a graphic designer working at the time for Knowlton-McLeary Printing on Church Street in Farmington (in the building that now houses the Ski Museum of Maine). Tyler has since passed away, but his legendary Loaf logo lives on.

"I know of no other logo in the ski business that has the identity Sugarloaf has. Maybe the Steamboat (Springs, Colo.) barn comes close, but that is not a logo," said Warren Cook, Saddleback's general manager and former co-owner and president of Sugarloaf. "It really does capture what the Loaf is."

Ethan Austin, communications director for Sugarloaf, says the logo's simplicity has helped its longevity, as well as the fact that it represents what Sugarloaf actually looks like.

"The images of the sticker from locations around the world speak to the connection that Sugarloafers feel with their mountain, which is unlike any other area that I've experienced," Austin said.

"To me, the logo speaks to the unique configuration of the mountain and the only lift-accessed snowfield skiing in the East," said John Christie, former general manager of Sugarloaf and author of "The Story of Sugarloaf." "The fact that it's been virtually unchanged for over 40 years says something about Sugarloaf's devotion to tradition and its origins."

In five decades, the Sugarloaf logo has seen just two modifications. In 1965, an Augusta-based ad agency added the "USA" to Sugarloaf on the base of the mountain triangle in a campaign to promote Sugarloaf's place on the global ski resort stage, coinciding with the installation of the base-to-summit gondola.

When Boyne purchased Sugarloaf in 2007, the "USA" was removed from the Sugarloaf lettering. A firestorm of message board postings ensued, proving that this icon is closely guarded and revered like the holy grail of the Carrabassett Valley.

The changes to the sticker stuck, though a few die-hard Loafers hoarded all the Sugarloaf/USA stickers they could get their hands on and altered the new logo to show their allegiance to the classic. Perhaps if Seth Wescott and the townspeople get their proposed new gondola, the Sugarloaf/USA moniker should make a comeback.

Ironically, many resorts have redesigned their logo and letterhead multiple times over the course of history, often with each changing tide of management. A lasting logo is a brand advertiser's dream; the Sugarloaf symbol is engrained in skiers' minds, plastered on their helmets and cars, even their homes and their dog collars.

At SugarloafSticker.com, you will see a wall of more than 380 photos submitted, and growing. Creative Sugarloaf sticker placements include an ambulance in Spain, the Great Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, a sign atop Kilimanjaro and the Statue of Liberty (out of respect, that one is superimposed only through Photoshop).

In my ski travels, I have personally witnessed the Loaf sticker at resorts from Vail, Colo., to Alpine Meadows in California to Val D'Isere and Zermatt in Europe. It's commonplace to find Loaf stickers at sister resort Sunday River. That's an easy tag but leaves a decal as evidence that a loyalist Loafer crossed over to the competition (perhaps just to slap a sticker).

The fact that Loafers don't see placards of Sugarloaf stickers on private and public property as graffiti, even vandalism, shows their unbridled enthusiasm for and fierce fanaticism about their favorite ski mountain.

Some extremely loyal Loafers have been permanently tattooed with the logo. For ski parties, ladies paint their fingernails and toenails blue with the iconic white triangle. Certain babies born into mountain-loving families sport Sugarloaf logo shirts from Day One — talk about early indoctrination into the club.

"To me, the sticker represents everything about Sugarloaf that I love. It's unpretentious and classic, and it looks the same as it did when I was a kid and was sure that Sugarloaf was the biggest mountain in the world," Ethan Austin said.

In "The Story of Sugarloaf," Peter Webber says, "If God were to build a ski mountain, He would start with a triangle and face it north, with the steepest terrain at the top and gentler slopes at the bottom. This idyllic mountain would also lend itself to one of the most recognizable logos — one that has been seen all over the world. It makes us proud when we see the famous Sugarloaf triangle in some of the strangest places."

It seems the enduring Sugarloaf symbol means many things to many people. The triangular mountain logo conjures strong sentiments of mountain loyalty, a place to play and make memories, ultimately a place to call home. The two-tone iconic triangle captures skiers' passion in a single symbol.

EVENTS

The Sugarloaf Charity Summit celebrates its tenth year of fundraising for a breast cancer cure next weekend, Jan 30.

Heather Burke is a ski/snowboard journalist from Kennebunk. She can be contacted at:

heather@familyskitrips.com

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