Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Skiing Saddleback

This is just a brief post to highlight the special qualities of Saddleback mountain, a ski resort in Rangeley, Maine.  Many of you may now have heard or read about the financing challenges facing Saddleback’s owners in order to replace the Rangeley Double Chair – a $3 million investment that, if not possible within the next week or two, will mean the mountain will not operate for the ski season this year.

While I completely concur with the ownership’s decision to replace this 51-year-old lift, I have fond memories of that slow, cold, creaky ride up the mountain.  On particularly frigid days, you’d practically need another visit in the lodge to warm up after just one ride up the Rangeley Double Chair.  It allowed ample time for conversation with whomever you were on the lift with (hopefully a friend, given the duration), or time for reflection if alone.

The long-tenured Rangeley Double Chair is representative of the authenticity that has charmed Saddleback’s patrons over the years, and I was saddened to see the headlines about the resort’s potential closure.  I sincerely hope the financing needed is secured, enabling the mountain to operate this winter.  Saddleback is unique among Maine ski resorts in its sense of community and family-friendly environment – it fills a special niche that made it a favorite destination for my family and many others.

In case you haven’t seen them, below are a few news articles about this announcement:

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/07/20/saddleback-maine-wont-reopen-unless-it-gets-3-million-financing/

http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/wireStory/maines-popular-saddleback-ski-resort-season-jeopardy-32581099

http://www.mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/on-the-town/article.html/content/news/articles/ap/2015/07/20/Maine_s_popular_Saddleback_ski_resort_season_in_jeopardy.html

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A little ‘Spring’ in your step

It may not feel much like spring in Maine right now – despite Wednesday, March 20th, being the first official day of spring – after all, the state just received another 10-18 inches of snow, depending on your location, and there’s a potential for more in a storm system next week.  But, spring is here, and with it comes a blog post on spring activities in Maine.

Given the recent snowfall, spring skiing should be at the top of the priority list.  As temperatures start to rise, but the snow in the mountains remains, there are rarely better skiing days.  After bundling up for the slopes all winter, there’s nothing more enjoyable than feeling the sun on your face, wearing a fleece, and whipping down the mountain.  For great spring skiing, check out Sugarloaf USA, Saddleback, Sunday River, and more.

One of my favorite things about Maine is that there are four true seasons – you get a real spring, short summer, real fall, and a long winter – and these transitions bring special activities year round. As spring progresses, activities like hiking, gardening, and attending spring and early summer festivals get you outside and enjoying the warm weather.  Stay tuned for a post this week on the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine.  Hiking, biking, and experiencing the great outdoors doesn’t get much better than in Acadia National Park.  Their extensive carriage trails provide manageable options for children and inexperienced cyclists as well as more challenging terrain for those looking for adventure.

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The end of spring, in June, brings a number of festivals that I want to mention briefly.  In June-July, you can celebrate Maine’s maritime tradition with at the Annual Heritage Days in Bath, Maine.  Also in June, the La Kermesse Franco-Americaine Festival in Biddeford offers an opportunity to celebrate and explore Maine’s Franco-American heritage.

To close on a personal note:

With spring comes mud season in Maine.  I remember describing this to my husband – the melting of the snow and frost, in combination with spring rain, and the results – deep, squishy, dirty mud.  Lots of it.  The defining image of mud season in my mind comes from my childhood – we lived in a white farmhouse at the end of a dead end road – and every spring, the mud would seep up between the walkway stones, making it impossible to venture from the car to the house without your feet being enveloped in it.  And every spring, my parents would set out a series of low, wooden bridges, made of 2-3 planks each, lifted about 4 inches off the ground, so that we could more easily (and cleanly) manuever from the car to the house.  I will remember the clattering noise of feet, planks, and stones all my life, I’m sure – as well as the childhood joy of leaping from set to set, making it more of a game than a walk.

So – may you enjoy the best of springtime in Maine, with mud kept to a minimum!


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Ski Maine

Many things about Maine make it an incredible place to grow up.  Living there teaches you to be tough without being hard, to be self-sufficient and still neighborly, to work hard, but know when to call it quits and enjoy your home and family.  There are many reasons I believe the place and the people gave me these traits, and one of them is the seasons – the hard winters, muddy springs, humid summers, crisp falls.  Each season brings its own challenges as well as its pleasures, and at this time of year, winter sports are the highlight.

I grew up skiing Sugarloaf, Shawnee Peak, and Saddleback Mountain.  I’ve skied Sunday River too, but in the battle between The Loaf and The River, Sugarloaf gets my vote.  Each of these mountains offers something unique to the winter sports enthusiast.

Shawnee Peak, a small mountain in Bridgton, Maine, was a short, 45-minute drive from my house, making it an easy weekday or weekend trip.  My dad took us frequently as kids, and later, once we could drive ourselves, Eddie and I would head up there often.  The mountain has a limited number of trails due to its size, making it a great place for a beginner – there are plenty of options with gradually-increasing difficulty.  My favorite thing about Shawnee Peak is the night skiing – there is something incredibly freeing about slicing through snow, flying down the mountain, with the dark all around you and just a bit of lighting.  In addition, Shawnee Peak offers a comfortable, local vibe both on the slopes and in its restaurant, Blizzards Pub and today, they’re celebrating 75 years.  Congrats!

I learned to ski at Sugarloaf, and my brother works there now at the ski shop and The Bag.  Sugarloaf has undergone immense change and growth during the years since my childhood – so much so that I scarcely recognized it the last time I was there – but it has an undeniably special place in my heart.  I’ve always felt that Sugarloaf is quintessentially Maine – with friendly staff, great hospitality, plenty of activities for skiers, boarders, tubers, and even golfers in the summer time.  The organization’s commitment to growth and quality improvement is also evident.  Sugarloaf offers a variety of lodging and dining options, not to mention a huge variety of trails with different degrees of difficulty.  The mountain is the largest ski area east of the Rockies, with 1,153 skiable acres and 14 lifts.  Maybe I can convince my brother to write a Sugarloaf-specific post in the future!

Despite my fond childhood memories of Sugarloaf, Saddleback Mountain is easily my favorite mountain in Maine.  At Saddleback, I finally learned how to successfully ride the t-bar – with another person and by myself.  At Saddleback, I tried snowboarding for the first (and last) time.  The years my family spent going up to Saddleback during February vacations were formative for me – I was a pre-teen and then a teen, finally old enough to be given greater independence to ski where I’d like, without supervision, and I embraced it.  Saddleback didn’t intimidate me, because at the time they only had two lifts and 3 t-bars, and in no time at all, the mountain felt like home to me.  Even today, Saddleback is recognized for being “different” from other ski resorts in Maine – it is in a class of its own – it may not be the biggest, with the most lifts, the most trails, the most restaurants – but it is unique, welcoming, and all about the outdoor sports enthusiast’s experience.

For a full list of Maine ski areas, check out this page from the Maine Office of Tourism.  So get out there, and ski Maine!

Ski Maine!

Ski Maine!