Or perhaps the title should be The Perfect Weather Pattern. Seven inches since Thursday and double that since last weekend with the coldest weather since 2009 moving in for the weekend. Crowds stay home and I ski untracked all day at Saddleback: home to the best on map soft wood glade skiing in New England.
Saddleback already had some damn fine glade skiing. But the recent addition of Casablanca solidifies Saddleback’s position as the New England leader in the soft wood glade category. Casablanca is just as expansive as it looks on the map. Virtually the entire area is thinned out and skiable. But the cutting was inspired–still retaining a few uncut sections to give the glade some definition rather than just one big sprawling big box glade. Very few on map glades in New England have been so well planned and cut.
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).
Sledhaulingmedic and I made our annual pilgrimage to Saddleback in Maine this fine Sunday afternoon. A brilliant blue sky with occasional puffy white clouds and very comfortable temperatures were enjoyed throughout the day. I donned a fleece and windbreaker for the Spring like temperatures that climbed into the forties. Generally, snow conditions never truly softened up despite some excellent corn being harvested on some lower mountain trails.
While Saddleback accurately reported 1-2″ of fresh snow over night, they downplayed the NCP they received prior to the change over. Snow surfaces were firm and many trails scheduled to open never had the rope dropped including Muleskinner, Upper Intimidator Glades, and Nightmare Glades. Just as well that the Glades were roped, but I was sad not to ski Muleskinner. Ropes dropped late on Supervisor,and Upper Tight Line to mixed results on firm surfaces.
We found the lower mountain slopes in better condition than most upper mountain trails, so we hammered the lower mountain in the morning after finding firm conditions up top. The lower mountain was slow to soften up but eventually we found the goods on the southern aspects.
I have said it many times this season: any one who thinks this season has sucked has not been paying attention and getting out when it counts. You simply CAN NOT put work above skiing when there is fresh snow in the mountains. I have had Saddleback on my radar for three or four years now and finally everything lined up to get over there following 12″ of fresh earlier this week. I think Saddleback is perhaps even more over looked than Burke as a great ski area no one skis and is certainly one of my favorites now that i have made some turns there.
Drivers approaching Saddleback from Vermont should be wary of a few things regarding the directions Saddleback suggests on their web site. Route 16 in NH has frost heaves that will launch your car completely air born if you do the speed limit for a fifteen mile stretch north of Berlin, NH. The road is only slightly better in Maine, but at least in NH Route 16 is consistently a rodeo whereas Route 16 in Maine you do not have any warning before preparing for lift off. The bigger issue is that the directions say to take Route 16 through Rangeley; but what they don’t tell you is that you need to go straight on Route 4 when Route 16 turns left. Fifteen minutes later, I noticed Saddleback in my rear view mirror. Oops.
A better alternative for those folks driving to Saddleback from western New England is to utilize Route 2 West to Route 17 East To Route 4 to Saddleback. Frost Heaves are less of an issue on Route 17 though still in existence and despite the longer mileage drive on Route 2, the excellent road conditions and high speed limits make up for the extra mileage in the end.