You can only pick one resort. Which one?
It would certainly be Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley, Maine. We have already bought our season passes and can’t wait to get out on the mountain!
Why Saddleback Mountain?
Part of it is that Saddleback is pure Maine skiing. It does not have the glitz and glamour that some resorts offer. If you are looking for heated pools and nightclubs, you need to go elsewhere. If you are looking for a great big mountain ski day – head to Saddleback. The staff is friendly, the trails are uncrowded and it is usually a great snow surface to ski on. You don’t have to worry about adhering to the latest fashion trends and ski technology on the slopes. If you want to pull out your 1980’s gear and rock it… go for it!
What makes Saddleback Mountain good for families?
For families new to skiing, the learning terrain at Saddleback is the best in Maine. They offer a newer quad servicing numerous beginner trails below the base lodge and the upper mountain trails. This is important as is separates the faster advanced skier from those who are just learning. There are about 10 trails, a terrain park and glades in this area which makes a lot of variety to ski.
The ability to drop your gear right at the base lodge allows you to avoid the long schlep with gear that you have to do at a lot of other resorts.
The upper mountain offers great advanced terrain, particularly in the glades, when your family is ready to take the next step up.
And the Sunday afternoon lollipop races are a lot of fun for the little ones!
What needs to be improved at this Saddleback Mountain to make it even better?
Lift lines tend to get long on the busy days as the only way up the mountain from the base lodge are a couple of double chairs. There is lots of terrain at Saddleback so the trails have room for more people and could handle an expanded lift system.
Are there any “secrets” you can share?
A groomed run that gets missed in the middle of the mountain is Lower Jane Craig. Upper Jane Craig is an expert cliff drop basically. But Lower Jane Craig is a stellar groomed run with off chutes to the side for natural powder shots. We often ski corduroy in the afternoon on this trail and you can access this run from crossing the “The Pass” cross cut from other blue square trails.
What would you tell other families coming to Saddleback Mountain?
You either want to be a beginner or a solid intermediate to advanced skier at this resort. There are not a lot of easier intermediate runs at Saddleback. The word is getting out and weekends and holidays are getting busy. So get there early and eat lunch early if you can.
Speaking of lunch, where do you like to eat?
The food court has some GREAT fudge and homemade desserts. We usually bring our own lunches but we bring some extra money for the dessert! The Swing and Smelt Pub upstairs is a great place for parents to take in an adult beverage.
How about lodging?
Lodging options are limited on-mountain. There are on-mountain condos that can be rented. A more affordable option is to rent in Rangeley which is about 7 miles away. There are lots of seasonal homes and cottages plus some hotels that can be utilized. This website, will give you lots of information about the area.
What makes Saddleback Mountain unique?
It is pure Maine skiing. Families go to Saddleback to ski… period. They have a great season pass option for Maine honor roll students. $99 gets a season pass to anyone that is on the honor roll for their school. If you live outside of Maine it is $149. You really can’t beat that.
What is your favorite memory of Saddleback Mountain?
I wrote all about it on my ski blog website, A Family Skiing in Maine. Let’s just say it was a pure East Coast epic powder day.
Do you have any tips for other parents?
Our children starting skiing when they were 11 and 8 years old. At this age, they are old enough to brave the elements (cold) a bit and manage their own gear for the most part. I am glad we waited until they were this age. I see lots of parents struggling with little tykes on the hill and waiting seemed to work the best for us. If you have a ski team at your school, have them join even if they are not big racers. It’s a great way for them to learn proper technique and become better skiers.
When did you start skiing?
I started skiing in High School with my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife. She basically taught me how to ski and I was hooked since then. I remember my first trip down a blue square trail… I took about three crooked turns and then fell into a deep snow drift in the woods. My wife had to dig me out and she was laughing the whole time! It didn’t deter me and now I think I am a fairly decent skier. I have to be to keep up with my kids!
What is your favorite thing about family skiing?
The fact that we can be all outside in the winter enjoying something together as a family. We are all on relatively the same ability level so we are very comfortable skiing together. We like to take lots of action pictures so it is always fun reliving our ski trips through the photographs.
The Brave Ski Mom adds…
Thanks Mike! As Mike mentioned, he has a ski blog, A Family Skiing in Maine. His site has great information about skiing in Maine and his insights and adventures in family skiing.
When I asked Mike to describe his family, this what he wrote. We are “a typical family of four. Work and school during the week. Ski as much as we can on weekend and holidays!” He sounds like a brave ski dad to me.
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