John Doyen: Sugar “loafer”

John Doyen skiis everyday he can.

John Doyen is on skis, and on Sugarloaf mountain everyday he can.

There are 365 days in a year. John Doyon skis one hundred or more of those days, and he skis them at Sugarloaf. His vanity plate is SLOAF1. He lives at the mountain from Labor Day until May, and he skis whenever he can. He skis Early Tracks, that special time before the mountain opens to the public, sometimes starting down before daylight. He skis before work, and he skis every weekend. He skis in the rain, in the wind and in the cold. He is, in short, obsessed.

John was born in Maine, but lived away for many years, returning 15 years ago after watching The Big Chill, and feeling the call to reconnect. College memories of the Carabbasset Valley drew him to Sugarloaf, and here he found his passion. He also found a circle of friends that share this passion, and form a core group of “Loafers.”

“My wife and I have more friends here than through work or family,” John says. “This mountain is a bond.” He mentions the mountaintop dinner parties, complete with china and linens, and parties where everyone shares three of their favorites songs creating a musical timeline of the group from the 70’s to the present. John selected “Stairway to Heaven,” which he used to listen to when he skied here in his college days. This generated groans and good-natured ribbing, according to John. “They said it was too long!” he exclaims, shaking his head and laughing. “But it is a classic, what memories.” Most of this group grew up in the same era as John, and share a lot of similar memories. “The Sugarloaf culture” John calls it, a tight bond of skiers and skiers’ families that have their lives, activities, and social events orbit around the mountain.

John says this group, this friendship circle, is an important reason for choosing to live here, but it clearly takes second place to being on the snow.

John starts his day before full light, taking dog, paper and coffee to the foot of the mountain to assess. He checks the conditions–the weather and the snow, and decides which skis to use. Racing skis, carving skis, skis for powder– there are skis for different conditions, and it makes a difference. So does keeping equipment in shape. “I do a mini-tune every day, and a major tune-up every ten days,” John says casually, blissfully unaware that he is reinforcing his reputation for obsession. He also keeps a chart of which skis he uses on each day, to be sure not to stress them. He keeps meticulous records of the days and hours he skies to be sure he gets his one hundred days in each year, and to push for as many more as possible “One hundred and four is the most I’ve skied” he says, “Maybe this year I can top that.”

But May fourth is the cut off. That is the day the mountain closes. “I start getting bummed out in April,” John says, “It is a dark feeling, I hate to see those first brown spots.”

“Sometimes even in June you can find a patch of snow in the woods,” he says wistfully. But John is upbeat, even the sadness of contemplating summer is momentary. His natural good nature and optimism reassert themselves. May fourth isn’t here yet, and John has skis to tune, and a mountain to ski.

Excerpt from Maine Vanities, a collection of essays about the people and stories behind vanity license plates.

These short portraits capture Maine individuality. There is quirkiness, compassion, and humor. While passions range from skiing to solving Mensa puzzles, and ages from 14 to 91, enthusiasm, curiosity, and delight in sharing the story behind their plate and their bit of Maine is the common thread.

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Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.