"Last year was one of our best seasons, and the longest season, 140 days here. Then I went on a ski vacation - out to [R482R, Vail] and [R36R, Beaver Creek]," Gunther Jochl, president and co-owner of [R434R, Sugar Mountain] said.

Sugar opened for winter 2007-08 Nov. 7 and closed March 25, posting the longest consecutive season since it began operating in 1969. Credit seasonable weather and excellent snowmaking atop decent snowfall (44.1 inches).

Jochl is passionate about skiing, and able to articulate why.

"You're talking to a person who skis 144 days a year - last year it was 150," he said.

"You're out in nature, have the thrill of going downhill under control, feeling the cold air in your lungs, having a great challenge. It's one of the few sports that combines being outdoors, being challenged, the exhilarating feeling, you can go with friends, have family along, or be by yourself.

"You can go up the mountain in the dark morning, make first tracks in the powder as the sun comes up, or go out in the spring and set your first tracks as the sun just touches the snow and it gets soft. What other feeling is there?

"For folks who have never skied, it's important to take a lesson and learn to do it right. When they're able to come down a mountain in control they're just ecstatic about it.

"It's the same with snowboarding; I shouldn't cut that out. Skiers and snowboarders alike just love the sport.

A native of Austria, Jochl has been at the resort's helm for more than three decades. He is intensely involved in all areas of operations, but especially in the racing programs for area youth. In past years, Jochl was the U.S. distributor for Volkl skis and later for Kneissl/Dachstein.

Sugar Mountain has a vertical drop of 1,200 feet off a summit elevation of 5,300 feet.

The resort offers 20 slopes and 115 acres of skiable terrain, served by four double chairs, a triple chair, a handle tow, a Magic Carpet in the Beginners Area, and a Magic Carpet in the Tubing Park.