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...