Excitement is high in the Rangeley, Maine area for the reopening of Saddleback ski area! The Arctaris group finalized the purchase of the mountain in late January, 2020 and have been hard at work over the past months getting the ski area ready for skiers again.
COVID will have a significant impact on all ski areas, especially in lodge / food / dining activities. Andy Shepard, Saddleback GM, said it best in a recent Facebook post stating “Remember that Saddleback is a family. Bring your mask, a sense of adventure and a conviction to be kind to one another.” So true to keep in mind during these very unusual times!
The targeted opening date is December 15th. Based on various news articles and podcasts (see article references at the bottom of this post) we put together a guide for what to expect at Saddleback for this upcoming ski season.
Lifts, Trials & Snowmaking
|Lift Construction October 2020|
Easier Ways Down the Mountain - The mountain ops teams have made the upper Hudson Highway / Sneaky Pete area much easier to give newer skiers an easier way down. Great improvement to help accommodate the increased skier traffic with the new Rangeley chair. Check out our Saddleback Trail Guide for detailed descriptions of all the trials and glades Saddleback has to offer.
All existing trails & glades are ready - The glades have been cleaned up and the trails have been mowed. They are ready to go!
Snowmaking System Enhanced - All the system water pumps have been rebuilt to access the unlimited water supply from Saddleback lake. New on-mountain snow making pipes are installed to and 86 new SMI and HKD snowmaking guns are ready to go when temperatures allow.
|Expanded Bar Area pc: Saddleback FB page|
limited. Think about ways you can use your vehicle as a place to boot up and warm up. Keep an eye on the Saddleback website for more exact lodge access details expected to be released in late November.
Expanded Restaurant / Bar Area - The restaurant / bar on the top floor of the lodge has been expanded to 400 seating spaces (from 175), kitchen is now 3 times bigger, 4 bathrooms have been added and views up the mountain have been expanded. This will be a fabulous place to relax after the ski day… especially post COVID.
Touchless Bathrooms / HVAC / Grab-n-Go Food / Tents - Touchless bathroom facilities and a new HVAC system have been installed to help provide COVID safe environments. Expect the cafeteria food to be largely grab-and-go and word is there will be food trucks in the parking lot. A heated tent will be available outside the lodge to take a break and eat your grab-and-go items.
Passes and Tickets
Season Passes are still available on the Saddleback website and are very competitively priced. We would recommend picking up a pass sooner rather than later!
RFID Access - The Rangeley lift will have RFID gates. RFID will allow day ticket users to purchase their tickets ahead of time and go directly to the lift. RFID will also facilitate touchless transactions throughout the ski area.
Expect consistent day ticket pricing - We expect the lift tickets to be very competitively priced but expect discounting to be limited. Keep an eye on the Saddleback website for pricing details.
Ski School & Lodging
Not a whole lot has been published about what ski school and lodging options will be available this season. Expect more information to be released on the Saddleback website as we get closer to ski season
What is next in the post-COVID world for Saddleback? Future plans include:
Replacing the Sandy Chair and Cupsuptic T-Bar - These lifts were torn down during the summer of 2020 and there simply was not enough time to replace them for the 2020-21 ski season. Plans include replacing both these lifts in time for the 2021-22 ski season. In fact, the Rangeley drive terminal for the old double-chair will be relocated to power the new Sandy chair, expected to be a fixed grip quad.
Solar Farm - A 30 acre solar farm, expected to produce double the required energy needs of the mountain, is proposed for the northern edge of the 6,400 acre property and is currently going through the Land Use Planning Commission permitting process.
Mid-Mountain Lodge - A lodge is proposed to be built at the top of the Rangeley high speed quad. The environmentally friendly design of the lodge builds the structure on pedestals, uses bird strike deterrent friendly glass and a sod based roof for blueberries and other plantings. This is also going through the Land Use Planning Commission permitting process.
Master plan under development - A multi-year master plan is being developed which will drive the decision making around expanded lodging, chair lifts and trial development. Saddleback recently launched an ambitious philanthropic fundraising plan to help fund projects on the master plan that benefit Saddleback and develop the economy in the Rangeley region. Read about it here.
The Family Skiing in Maine crew extends a BIG THANKS to all the people working so very hard, in these very uncertain pandemic times, to make lift serviced skiing at Saddleback possible again! Mask up, stay safe and we will see you at Saddleback this winter!
Sources used in this blog post:
Portland Press Herald
Storm Skiing Journal and Podcast
Friends of Saddleback Mountain Facebook Page
Saddleback Maine Facebook Page
News Center Maine