En route to Sugarloaf for the 2010 AlpineZone.com Summit, I met some other “Zoners” for an afternoon at The ‘Back. The mountain received Thursday’s rain with a twist: a 30 degree drop in temperatures through the evening. My expectations were about as low as possible which meant that it would not take much to impress.
Saddleback did an absolutely outstanding job getting their product back into shape. I was not optimistic about good skiing conditions whatsoever and was completely blown away by the product Saddleback offered. I had no designs on skiing anything but groomers but we were able to get into some bumps and even some trees due to some nice wind blow in places. But we did spend most of the day on the groomers which skied incredibly well. Saddleback did an amazing job grooming the trails into top shop. Saddleback did better than both Sunday River (second hand) and Sugarloaf (first hand).
Only two of the steeper trails (Tight Line and Supervisor) were available off the summit along with America and Tri-Color. Both Tight Line and Supervisor offered up fast hard pack that was quickly degrading. Poor conditions combined with what could generously be called a “stiff breeze” made the summit not very appealing. We ducked into the bottom of Dark Wizard (which has been substantially opened up since my last time skiing it) but snow was variable and not worthy of the effort.
The Kennebago Quad is a massive upgrade compared to the old T-bar. Honestly, I was not crying for the lost T-bar while riding the Quad up to the summit. It is fairly sheltered from the wind and easier on the legs. Sure, it is going to increase summit traffic, but they have expanded their terrain and that Quad will get more people skiing Saddleback ensuring long term sustainability.
The Yurt at the base of the Kennebago Quad was a master stroke of genius. You can now ski the Kennebago without going back down to the main lodge. While the Yurt is cozy and needs a little more seating, it covers all the basics. I was stunned by their great beer selection including two varieties of Tuckerman Ale and two varieties of Flying Dog. They also had a keg of BL on tap, if you are into that sort of thing….
From the Rangeley Double, we skied almost all of the open trails excepting Silver Doctor which was closed for race training. I found incredible hard pack bumps with amazingly lines in Parmachee Belle. It was firm but very skiable and I had a lot of fun on that trail with its wonderful meandering pitches, narrow character, and split personality ending. Peachy’s Peril was even better with really great wind slab blow on skier’s left. I was dumbfounded that snow that good could be found following a rain storm and freeze. We skied Peachy’s Peril three times which included the last time leading to Thrombosis Glade which was hard pack much like the Belle.
To find good ungroomed skiing at Saddleback on Friday was a huge surprise and very much to my delight. That said, the winding and moderately pitched blue square groomers off the double were an absolute joy to ski. Not having done much groomer skiing in recent years, I began to feel and remember that sensation of a quickened pulse while laying down high speed arcs with near reckless abandon. Even a powder princess can have fun when the groomers setup that well. As far as snow conditions go, Saddleback was definitely the pick of the weekend for me.