TR - Saddleback , ME - 3/22/2008
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scootertig
April 3, 2008
Member since 02/19/2006 🔗
365 posts
It's a little later than I meant it to be, but here's a TR of my trip to the hinterlands of Maine.

Saturday was spent at Saddleback. I had never skied in Maine before, despite living there for almost 7 years during/after college. I didn't ski at that point because I never seemed to have free time and disposable income simultaneously, and I didn't have any friends who did ski who would have dragged me along (I skied a few times in high school and my freshman year of college, but only at Wintergreen with local friends).

Even though it was late March, if you've followed the weather reports at all, they are still in "winter" mode up there. Saturday morning, I think the temp at the base of Saddlback was near 10 degrees, and it didn't really warm up during the day.

The lodge at Saddleback is gorgeous (and new):



It's not a big lodge, but it's beautiful inside.

It was cold and cloudy outside as we started up the main lift (when it opened). The main double was actually closed (on wind hold) when we got there. They actually recommended buying a 1/2 day ticket, in case they couldn't get it open. (The T-bar serving the expert terrain was on wind hold as well, but that was less of an issue for us). The nice thing was, you could upgrade to a full day ticket later, for just the price difference. (So, $40 full-day ticket = $30 1/2-day ticket + $10 upgrade).

We skied the beginner area until they opened the double. The beginner area is served by a quad, and at least gave us something to do. Once they opened the double, we hopped on as quickly as we could.



(not much in the way of crowds)

The top was COLD. You can see the lakes in the distance - Rangeley's an amazing area for scenery.



We spent the first couple trips working on a nice easy green run, then moved up to "the devils". (I don't know if that's what anyone else calls them, but there are two trails - Red Devil and Blue Devil, and we referred to them collectively as "The Devils"). The trails all had that nice New England feel, which I think you can get from just seeing a few of them them (not a Devil, though):





We spent a while on the runs on that side of the double (skier's left), but decided we should really give some of the other runs a shot, too. That turned out to be a GREAT choice. The blue runs off to skier's right were a blast, and the black runs (that we tried) were even better. Green Weaver, Green Hornet, and the lower part of Peachy's Peril were all fun blues, but I can't help but wonder (based on the name) if they used to be greens (at least, the first two).

Note: Many of the trails at Saddleback have been renamed recently (since the new ownership took over), taking the names of locally tied flies as their inspiration. The area has a strong fly-fishing community... Talking to people who hadn't been to the area in a few years, they referenced old trail names that no longer exist, so it made for some confusing conversations. (Really, very much like asking for directions in an old New England town - "you go up to where the old Jenkins place used to be, and turn left...")

As I've said before, I'm an improving intermediate, who's more focused on getting things right than just bombing down the hardest hill I can find. So, I tended to stay on blue runs all season, and tended to avoid bumps, and tended to take my time when I felt a little over my head. I got a little gutsy and decided to try a black run or two, and couldn't have been happier. My friend Mike is a VERY conservative skier, and was so nervous about going on a black run that he was literally shaking... I did a test trip down the top part of Peachy's Peril to make sure we wouldn't die, and then he joined me. I can safely say, it was the BEST possible learning environment I could imagine:



We had the place to ourselves, and the snow was great. It was getting a little bumped up in places, but it was also soft snow and we could really focus on skiing, rather than just surviving. I think we skied that another 4-5 times.

When we tried Golden Smelt, on the other hand (no photos of that), we didn't do so well. All bumps, VERY narrow, and a bit steeper. I actually had a blast on that, but it was a quick reminder not to get too confident.

Did I mention it was COLD? There was a really strong wind blowing, which made the twisty, turny trails a godsend - they block the wind. Once we got to the runout to the lift, which was wide open, the wind would almost knock you off your feet, and it was COLD. I think the high that day didn't get out of the teens, and most of the day was significantly colder.

Here's a rare action shot of me tackling a hill:



The scenery was great, and had that real "mountain" feel (as opposed to, say, Hidden Valley, where you get that "industrial worksite" feel):



We skied bell to bell, and since the last lift turning served the terrain park, well... I had to give it a shot:



It didn't end as badly as it could have, but it's safe to say that the X-games are NOT in my future.

In all, probably the best $40 I've ever spent skiing (although, for just a few dollars more, Loveland is definitely worth the extra $14... ha!) The mountain is a lot of fun, there were NO lift lines, no crowds, and it's got a really good local feel to it. If I lived within 2-3 hours of there, I would have no problem making it my home hill.

We didn't get to the more advanced area, what with the wind hold and all(ha... we couldn't have skied it anyway), but even just with the runs we did (skied all the greens, all the blues except Tight Line and the lower parts of Jane Craig and Professor), it was a fantastic day. Did I mention it was cold?

Saddleback's expanding a bit, too, and next time I get up there, there will be more trails to ski! And, better yet, I'll be better, and maybe I'll have more trails that I *can* ski.

Day 2 was at Sugarloaf, and hopefully, I'll get those up tomorrow...

Saddleback's on my East Coast "must ski" list for next year...


aaron
Murphy
April 3, 2008
Member since 09/13/2004 🔗
618 posts
That second to last picture is awesome. There aren't many places on the east coast where you can see that much undisturbed forest.
oldensign - DCSki Columnist
April 3, 2008
Member since 02/27/2007 🔗
437 posts
wow! great report! Looks like a great remote area. cool!
JimK - DCSki Columnist
April 3, 2008
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,696 posts
I'm curious as to what brought you to this ski area? It is not so famous, but has a high interest factor for old ski hands who like remote, uncrowded, old-school ski areas. I understand they have plans to replace the t-bar with a chair, I think this off season. I've never been there, but Saddleback is supposed to have some of the best views in Eastern Skidom.

By the way, I drove through NH and VT on I93 and 91 on 3/22 on the way to Quebec City. It was a gorgeous, if cold day. Snow deepened as we hit the NH border and I went crazy as we passed one area after the other, Tenney, Loon, Cannon (we stopped for lunch in the Tram building), Jay, Orford. Amazing. I got a view looking from north to south at a lot of these areas for the first time. Cannon and Jay are especially impressive from that direction.
skier219
April 3, 2008
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
Awesome report and photos Aaron, thanks! I love the trails and scenery up there. I have heard a lot of good things about Saddleback, and it's said to be an up and coming ski resort. For anybody with $$$, it would be a great place to buy slope side property.

So was it a pretty long drive up there?

BTW, I like hearing the story about Mike tackling that black trail. I bet that was a major confidence builder -- good for him.

Craig
scootertig
April 4, 2008
Member since 02/19/2006 🔗
365 posts
 Originally Posted By: JimK
I'm curious as to what brought you to this ski area? It is not so famous, but has a high interest factor for old ski hands who like remote, uncrowded, old-school ski areas. I understand they have plans to replace the t-bar with a chair, I think this off season. I've never been there, but Saddleback is supposed to have some of the best views in Eastern Skidom.


Well, I have to admit, although not old (by almost any standard), I have a serious soft spot for the old-school ski areas... I have been wanting to ski there for the past several years, and I finally made it up there. Mike (a good friend of mine from college) still lives in Augusta, ME, and skis up at Sunday River and Sugarloaf a lot. He'd only been to Saddleback a few times, but knew I wanted to go there, so we headed over there. He was worried that I would be disappointed because it wasn't such an "impressive" area, but he couldn't have been more wrong!

I loved the views, and the skiing was top-notch. I don't need extreme steeps, or mile-long bump runs to find a challenge, and the balance of challenge and accessibility at Saddleback made it a perfect choice for me.

 Originally Posted By: skier219
So was it a pretty long drive up there?
BTW, I like hearing the story about Mike tackling that black trail. I bet that was a major confidence builder -- good for him.


Well, I sort of cheated... I flew from BWI to PWM (Portland, ME) for about $200. Mike picked me up in Portland on Friday night, and we made it to the hill from his place in Augusta in about 2 hours on Saturday morning. The drive to Sugarloaf (TR forthcoming) on Sunday morning was a little shorter... From Portland, ME, it's probably 3.5-ish hours, but it's hard to say for sure.

Either way, from here in DC, it'd be 12 hours or so. (I made the drive to Maine a LOT while I was in college in Orono, and I generally allot 7-8 hours to Boston, 9-10 to Portland, and then from there, it's whatever it takes... The further I drive, the more time I can make up...)

I may start a topic on my favorite ski areas I visited over the last season, but my top 4 (I skied at 9), are Loveland, Saddleback, Vail, and Bolton Valley. I know Vail's an outlier there, but it's so incredible (3 days in Blue Sky Basin), it makes up for it...

It's fun to watch someone go (safely) outside their comfort zone. Mike and I had a killer time at Sugarloaf the next day, and I managed to "drag" him onto slopes that he wouldn't have dared approach on his own. I should point out, he's MUCH more 'technically' skilled than I am (by a long shot). He's just less daring than I. I'm hoping this will make him a bit more confident if we actually make it to Utah next year...



aaron
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