Lead Photo Credit: Colin Witherill
There’s a heartbeat to skiing no matter where it is on earth and it’s definitely strong in the community at Sugarloaf.
Amy Taisey should know, she has been skiing at Sugarloaf since the age of two. She, along with her husband Phil Taisey are diehard Sugarloaf skiers (Phil has skied all over Maine but primarily there since the 1990’s). Sugarloafers, as they are called, are their own breed of skier. Hardcore, resourceful, yet still humble. They are ready for anything that this fine Eastern mountain throws their way. Now that resourcefulness and more are on display as Phil and Amy Taisey represent The Loaf as the only East Coast ski destination in this year’s Warren Miller film, Winter Starts Now.
Emerging from the floor of Maine’s Carrabassett Valley, Sugarloaf is its own little entity — a true gem of East Coast skiing. Standing 4,249 tall it is the East’s only resort with lift service above the tree line. This allows for some rather diverse terrain not normally seen in that part of the U.S. including open snowfields reminiscent of bowls in the West.
The skiing at Sugarloaf is special but so too are the people. They and the culture that they have created over the last six decades are as much of what defines The Loaf as the terrain itself.
Photo Credit: Rob Kingwill
Mainers through and through Phil and Amy Taisey are the embodiment of the community that is Sugarloaf and Maine ski culture as a whole. They are hardy, gritty people who can adapt to all aspects of Maine living. This sense of ingenuity even prompted the Taiseys to found the Amalgam ski brand, which too is locally based and community driven.
Phil and Amy Taisey’s passion for their home mountain and state is what makes ski culture special. I had the opportunity to catch up with them and find out what it meant for a couple of hard-working Loafers to be the only East Coast location in this year’s Winter Starts Now.
- How did you get into skiing?
Phil Taisey: Getting outside in all four seasons is a part of life growing up in Maine. Skiing was a sport my parents introduced to me at a young age. I remember taking my first turns while holding on to my dad’s knees. The local community I grew up in had programs on the weekends to take kids to the ski hill. It instilled a lifelong passion for getting out on the mountain and enjoying the time with family and friends.
Amy Taisey: I took my first turns at Sugarloaf at the age of 2. I’ve been a Sugarloafer since 1985. My Dad and Grandfather both skied at Sugarloaf and it truly is a special place in my life. I feel extremely fortunate to have grown up skiing the incredible terrain and being part of the Carrabassett Valley community.
2. How has Maine ski culture shaped you as skiers?
PCT: Skiing in Maine makes you a hardy skier, ready and comfortable with any conditions the mountain may offer. You don’t know unless you go…. Skiing in Maine makes you really appreciate the times when all the variables align to catch the perfect day on the snow.
Amy: Mainer’s are hardcore, resourceful, and humble. In order to ski in the east these traits are important to bring to the day.
3. What does it mean to be in a Warren Miller movie?
PCT: It’s an honor to be part of the long legacy Warren Miller created. It’s rewarding to show a bit of our process and product to such a dedicated audience of the sport. Humbling to see myself skiing on the big screen but all in all, a very memorable and fun experience.
Amy: It felt pretty surreal. I’ve been watching Warren Miller movies since I was a kid and it was an incredible experience to be a part of. Truly the thing that stands out the most was the amazing group of people. The folks at Warren Miller are some of the nicest, hard working, honest, and talented groups of human beings.
4. How are your feelings about being in a Warren Miller movie amplified by your home mountain, Sugarloaf, and state, Maine, being the only East coast location in the film?
PCT: It’s great to be able to share the beauty of Maine. Skiers tend to think of western mountains, but it’s fun highlighting an eastern mountain with so much character in terrain and history in the sport of Alpine racing.
Amy: Sugarloaf has always been a hidden gem tucked a little further north. Its an honor to be a part of such an amazing place. I hope the takeaway is that there’s a heartbeat to skiing no matter where it is on Earth and it’s definitely strong in the community at Sugarloaf.
5. How would you describe the ski culture at Sugarloaf? Would you say it’s similar to many other east coast locations or does it stand out? If so, how?
PCT: Sugarloaf has a very community local feel to it, when you get to know it. Generations of skiers continue to expand at The Loaf. It’s an honest group of people…living, working and playing in the valley of the Carrabassett. There are lots of characters at all times of day…. I think every mountain has its uniqueness and all have merit. It’s unique to me to be able to dive into such a broad range of Mainers, enjoying the fresh air and long vistas Sugarloaf has to offer.
Photo Credit: Rob Kingwill
6. What inspired you to start Amalgam ski?
PCT: Motivated to build a business and an independent financial future. Inspired to build rewarding local jobs. Engineer sustainable local manufacturing solutions, utilizing the local craftsman’s knowledge base our neck of the woods are known for.
Amy: To create a product, business and lifestyle that was impactful for a community of skiers and the environment.
Photo Credit: Colin Witherhill
7. Is there a correlation between what it means to be from Maine and your ski brand, Amalgam skies?
PCT: Amalgam skis is a composite of various knowledge bases, life lessons and experiences. Being from Maine instills a “can do attitude” and a culture of putting life’s puzzle together yourself, one piece at a time.
Amy: Maine is known for its craftsmanship and ingenuity. It’s coastlines, rivers, lakes, and forests. If you love outdoor adventure, like we do, the state is an absolute wonderland. Amalgam cares about Maine and embodies the values of the state. We strive to be hard-working, community-oriented, locally-focused, and passionate.
Building and designing our skis, we are inspired by our Maine roots in many ways. From the heart and soul of our skis, the wooden cores, that are made from locally harvested maple and poplar to Phil’s strong background in engineering, boat building, composites and commercial lobstering. Not many know this, but our very first prototypes had topsheets that were inspired by the colors of Phil’s lobster buoys. Like the many different pieces and parts of a ski, it’s all a combination of many things; an Amalgam.
8. What is your ultimate goal for Amalgam?
PCT: Sustainable small business, providing jobs in the outdoor industry and a positive spark to the community. Focused on efficient manufacturing locally, reducing resources required to make the highest quality, long lasting product. Hold stewardship and honor to the outdoors and the element of nature for future generations to experience.
Amy: Remain devoted to the cause and quality of each individual pair of skis that we carefully construct. It is our mission to engineer and manufacture products that continue to inspire passionate skiers.
Rich Stoner is the founder of the après-ski lifestyle clothing and media brand, All About Après and the co-host of the Beyond the Après podcast. No stranger to the ski and après-ski scene, Rich has been a long time contributor for many publications on topics like skiing, gear, beer and food. However, his passion is on the slopes and enjoying good times with good people. You can find him perfecting his craft carving turns and drinking beers in the Green Mountains of Vermont. @allaboutapres