This past December my wife treated me with a 3-ticket ‘test drive’ of the newly-reopened Saddleback Mountain ski resort in Rangeley, Maine. I’ve been eager to check it out, as it closed over 5 years ago and attempted to be reopened over the years with one unsuccessful reopening after another. Finally the mountain has reopened and seems to have a great business plan and energized group of people working on bringing it back from its ashes.
Saddleback Mountain, in addition to Sunday River and Sugarloaf (two other excellent Maine mountains), is one of the big 3 ski resorts in Maine. It has 66 trails, about 2000 feet of vertical drop and has been bringing generations of families joy. Saddleback’s always been the mountain that’s not quite as busy as Sunday River or Sugarloaf, but provides a comparable experience and a way to get out of the crowds of people.
Pandemic Ski Season
This season ski resorts are taking extra measures to ensure skiers are safe and not transferring COVID-19. At first I was a little skeptical that these measures would be effective, but after my first couple of days I can say without a doubt that Saddleback has the measures in place that will keep families safe from contracting COVID-19. Full information is available on their website, but they require everybody wear masks in all public areas and on the ski lift, you’re able to take your own lift up the mountain if you’d prefer, indoor dining is by reservation or outdoors at the tasty Fat Tire Mountain Bar. This year skiers are recommended to use their vehicles as a locker room to prevent crowding, which has been just fine by me. It was not nearly as the photos of crows of people I’ve seen at Sugarloaf and Sunday River, so it’s definitely a place to come to get away from the crowds.
The weekend I was on the slopes in December there were only 7 trails open (it’s been a rough season for snow this year) but is now open at 100% with 66 trails open and ready to explore. Even though you can only do so much on 7 trails, I had a great time on beautiful bluebird days getting dozens of runs in throughout the day.
One of the biggest improvements I was excited about is the beautiful new quad ski lift installed at the base of the mountain. The previous lift could only take up 2 people at a time, was slow and became a bottleneck for enjoying your day of skiing. That is all in the past – this lift quickly gets you up the mountain (I’d say in 5 minutes or less) and allows you to do more runs and get the most out of your day.
In addition to the new lift, there is an updated ticketing system with RFID, which basically means you can have a no-touch experience ordering tickets and getting on the lift. I haven’t been to Sugarloaf or Sunday River since last year so they may have this equipment, but if they don’t, I hope they catch up with the times and be as cool as Saddleback Mountain. ?
If you haven’t had a chance to check out Saddleback, you should make this the year and help support this wonderful ski resort get back on its feet. The scenery is beautiful, there aren’t as many crowds of people, and it’s an overall great mountain to get some turns on. My ‘test drive’ experience passed with flying colors and I’m looking forward to coming back to the mountain a little later in the season now that we’ve gotten a couple of decent dumpings of snow.
I’m pumped that Saddleback is back open and eager to get back up to the Rangeley region and make more memories!