I finally made it over to Saddleback, in Rangeley, and although I managed to pick the coldest day of the year (we’re talking double-digits below zero), it was hard not to keep yo-yoing runs from the frosty summit. The new quad chair should put this semi-retro “resort” on the must-visit list for any skier or rider.
The quad, which replaced the ancient summit T-bar, opens up the peak to all abilities. It also opens up the views, which are among, if not the, finest in New England skidom. From the summit and from the trails, the sweeping vistas roll over the Rangeley Lakes and out to the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, capped by Mt. Washington. And yes, now even confident beginners can enjoy the experience.
What separates Saddleback from most other New England’s other big mountains is that the only a few of the trails ribboning down from its 4,210-foot summit have been widened. Most retain their classic, narrow and serpentine design. That and the continuous 2,000-foot vertical–lots of pitch and roll, with few flat sections.
I skied the lower section of Frostbite (appropriate name, given the temps), one of the new trails; it’s a nice weave through the woods that should only get better with more snow. The upper section wasn’t open, but looking up at that and Black Beauty, both single-diamond blacks, I made a vow to return. I really want to venture into some of the terrain between Black Beauty and Muleskinner, both of which drop off Dazzler.
This Saturday, Jan. 31, is John Christie Day, honoring the former owner of the mountain. It will feature a slide show, Down Mountain and Cross Country, produced by the Ski Museum of Maine and narrated by Scott Andrews, at 2 p.m. in the Swig n’ Smelt (the restaurant/bar upstairs in the lodge). Afterwards, both Christie and Warren Cook, who took over as resort manager this fall, will speak.
Keep in mind that Saddleback delivers big mountain skiing for small mountain prices, with daily lift tix at $40; gotta like that!