Who needs spring when you’ve got winter ski conditions in the mountains? Snow may be melting or gone south of northwestern Maine, but up here, well, winter continues. I skied Wednesday and Thursday at the ‘loaf, and if I’d skied there yesterday, I would have dipped into the Backside Snowfields. Instead, my friend Karen and I bumped our way over Route 16 to Saddleback and Rangeley. She had an assignment for the new Portland Daily Sun to cover a Portland family competing in the box derby.
Let’s start with the skiing: One of the reasons I love Saddleback is that the uphill capacity, even on a weekend, doesn’t overwhelm the downhill. Even though there were short lines for the chairs, we managed to have whatever trail we picked practically to ourselves. And with Saddleback’s old-style wending and weaving, that’s particularly sweet. If you doubt the views, check our photo, taken from the summit on a hazy day. If it had been clear, the backdrop would have included the Presidential Range of the White Mountains capped by Mt. Washington. Nice, eh?
The big race: What a great event! A straight chute was set near the base, so it was easy for anyone to walk up and watch the kids climb into their boxes and descend. The creativity was superb, with boxes done up as airplanes, popcorn boxes, rafts, and all manner of movie scenes, from Winnie the Pooh to Top Gun. Plenty of crashes and burns. Most kids emerged from their boxes grinning ear to ear, but there were a few tears among the younger ones. This event is just one sample of Saddleback’s emphasis on families. There’s a retro feel here, an easy comfort that’s hard to find at other resorts. I hope the resort holds onto that as it grows.
The matchmaker: On weekends, one of the lift attendants at the base of the Rangeley Chair makes a point of not only matching singles, but also introducing them to each other by name. As my friend Karen said, if it doesn’t work out, you just have to either ski faster than your chair date or hang back and drop down another trail. If you run into him/her again, just claim you thought he/she was right behind or that you thought he/she had taken another trail.
Pond Skimming: April 4 at Saddleback. If you’ve never seen one of these events, where fools folks try to waterski across a slush pond on alpine skis, well you simply must go. Ultimate spring event. And afterwards? Hanging out on Saddleback’s sunwashed deck. Priceless.
Lift tix: Did I mention lift tix are a budget-friendly $40?
(box race photos courtesy of Karen Cummings).