Sunday, November 29, 2015

COMMENTARY - My Thoughts on Saddleback

It has been an excruciating 4 months as we all await news of Saddleback's status for the 2015-16 season. Followers of this blog know that our family absolutely loves the mountain. One of the biggest reasons we love it is because we just feel at home there. The staff, the skiers and the mountain just fits our style and it is hard for us to imagine making any other mountain our home mountain.

Saddleback is not for everyone, but what makes Saddleback unique for the @MaineSkiFamily crew?

Snow - The snow is just better there. We always seem to have consistent snow surfaces to ski on.
Maybe it is because they don't dust and run and instead bury their snowmaking trails. Maybe there is less skier traffic (good for skiers that are on mountain - but bad for business sounds like). Whatever the reason the snow is just really, really good.

Gladed Terrain - When our family discovered the trees at Saddleback, a whole new mountain opened up for us. The tree skiing is just awesome. Skiing down the big canopy of pine trees on Intimidator and Dark Wizard is truly special. Casablanca is a gladed playground that you could spend all day in. Upper Nightmare is just the right spacing of trees and open areas. The glade cutters of Saddleback have done an outstanding job to make tree spacing... just right. If you don't ski the glades of Saddleback you are really missing out.

Convenience - No shuttle buses to get on. Drop your skis off at the lodge and close by parking. A comfortable (albeit crowded on weekends) lodge with an awesome fireplace. A smiling, friendly staff. Great homemade cookies and coffee at the snack bar. A fun pub upstairs with great food, drinks and a stellar view.

Awesome Learning Area - The area below the base lodge has a variety of green trails and its own lift for beginners to get started on. The lollipop races on Sunday for the little ones is always a blast for the kids.

Golden Smelt, Warden's Worry, Peachy's Peril, Black Beauty, Parmacheenee Bell, Jane Craig, Professor, Governor - Old school ski trails - Need I say more?

Not Pretentious - We can usually pick out the people skiing 'from away'. Their skis and clothes are just a bit newer and more stylish than most. They are usually bombing down the middle of the trail at 100 miles an hour and they might comment that there are too many ungroomed trails.

True Saddleback skiers might have a rip or two in their clothing. Duck tape would not be out of the question to cover a hole or hold something together. Many are dipping knees on their teles. Usually they are skiing the sides of the trails or hopping into the woods to find some untouched powder stashes. And frozen ice beards are worn with pride.

I could go on and on about why we love Saddleback but I think you get the drift. But what now as we await news on Saddleback's fate. I admit I have gone through a range of emotions. I have been angry at times with the ownership and management, sad that we might lose our mountain, and hopeful that something is going to work out for the best for all parties involved. As I swing through these emotions I do keep coming back to these main thoughts.

My problem is not that big - Compared for folks that are living in the area, rely on the tourism for their livelihood, own property in the area or work at the mountain they are the ones most impacted. I think the majority of the Saddleback ski population fits into the 'hope for the best' column. I am just looking for a place to ski and I do hope it will be Saddleback.

Pre-season pass holders are a bit stuck - Those that bought early are a bit stuck and I don't blame them for being angry. I just skied Sugarloaf this past weekend thinking it would sure of been nice to know if I need a season pass at the Loaf instead of buying $150 worth of lift tickets. The situation is worse for those with on-mountain property and seasonal rentals. But at this point I can only trust the ownership that there are valid reasons for not refunding pass holders yet, and they will make things right in the end.

Chris Farmer (GM of Saddleback) is doing everything he can - My read is that he is trying to help facilitate a sale while under direct orders not to say anything. That has to be an impossibly tough situation. While official communication from the mountain has been inconsistent due to a variety of factors, I am quite certain the midnight oil is burning in Chris' office.

I don't want to own a ski area! - We owe a big THANK YOU to the Berry's and all the investments they have made in the mountain. I really don't blame them if they want to get out. I think they have lost a lot of their family money in this venture. I certainly wish the exit could be smoother, but it is not my money at risk. While I have my opinions on how to make Saddleback work better financially, I would not want to be in the driver's seat risking my own capital. Loads of risk!

I am hopeful for the future - Even if the lifts don't spin this winter, I do think there is hope for the future. Saddleback has WAY too much going for it to sit dormant for long.

I could be wrong about all of this and I am sure there are different opinions out there. However, this is what keeps me going. As I have said many times before, I do hope something works out for the best for everyone involved, and we will hang on to the bitter end to see how this plays out.

Fingers crossed!!!

-Mike

The @MaineSkiFamily Old Man.

What do you think? Post in the comments below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

2 comments:

  1. I totally agree with you. I grew up in the Rangeley area and I love it there. Saddleback had always been a nice place to ski. I spent many a weekend (even a few school days) there during High school. It would be a shame to see it close down, even for one season. I had the honor of building a bed and breakfast place nearby and they rely pretty heavily on the slope for winter income. Im sure there are MANY more businesses in the same snowdrift... I have to say though, the biggest problem for me before I moved away was the ticket prices. They pretty much priced out all of the native Maine skiers at that time... Because of the price I used to drive the extra hour and go to Sugarloaf... I have been away for about 8 years now. But, I truly hope they can get things straightened out. It really is (was) a Beautiful place that is (was) fantastic for families.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've never skied Saddleback, but I've heard great things and I feel terrible for the season pass owners. I can't help but think it will work out this year. It is just too late in the season for them not to make an announcement unless they were confident it was that the mountain would open.

    ReplyDelete

Hi - thanks for taking the time to comment. Please keep the comments on-point and lets be nice to each other!