Peak experience at Saddleback

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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!

1 COMMENT

  1. Hilary, I enjoyed skiing with you at Saddleback. It was really cold but because the lifts there are surrounded by thick forests, it didn’t feel that cold going up. And of course, cold temps make great snow surfaces! I just loved cruising down those cordoroy covered black diamonds on Monday morning. With the 18 inch snowfall they received on Wednesday, it should be really good skiing tomorrow on John Christie Day!

  2. Hilary, will you be able to join us on the 31st? I’d love to take some runs with you. Thanks so much for the coverage of what should be a fun day for all concerned!

  3. Shhhh, don’t give away Maine’s best secret. I’ve been skiing there the last 5 years, never a lift line and great snow. The glades are the best. This year (2008-2009) is ahead of last year and we still haven’t hit the heavy snow months for this mountain (Feb/Mar). It’s actually a benefit being near Sugarloaf (that’s an awesome mountain too but not when you can ski Saddleback for 1/2 the price and no lines) since most of the crowd heads there. Still a gem, they have a new director running the show this year, he formally ran Sugarloaf, I just hope we aren’t headed for $$$ lift ticket costs.

    Paul