Saddleback Mountain grows, gears up

RANGELEY – Half-way up the mountain, a red harvester snips off the tops of tall trees, chews the trunks straight to the ground and creeps up Saddleback, clearing the way for a trail named Frost Bite.

Opening day is three months off. The clock’s ticking.

Employees are working through a long to-do list that started last spring: Paint and renumber lift chairs. Recheck telephone wires. Look after snow-making equipment.

Create the ski shop. Mow the slopes.

“We’re feverishly working on a new brochure. When you cut a new trail, it means your whole trail map has to be redone,” says JoAnne Taylor, marketing director at Saddleback Maine.

The harvester finished Frost Bite and started Black Beauty this week, both new black diamond trails. (Trails are named after fishing flies, a nod to the area’s heritage.)

While Taylor gives a tour of the 5-year-old base lodge, two women set out linen napkins and silverware for a wedding reception in a room with exposed beams and a massive stone fireplace.

“We had this great big space that nobody was using all summer,” Taylor says. So three years ago, the resort hired her, a former wedding planner, to fix that.

“Now, just about every weekend we have a wedding here. It’s a great revenue stream for the mountain.”

Guests feel like they have a mountain to themselves, she says, and it keeps employees like their chef busy year-round. “In the winter, she’s soups and fries. In the summer, she’s putting out beef tenderloin and chicken marsala.”

This summer, workers also cut roads that run through a development of private home lots not far from the base lodge. Four have sold and 11 are under contract. Several have British buyers.

“Part of it is the value in terms of the dollar versus the pound,” she says. There was also a firm overseas promoting the resort.

Taylor describes pre-season pass sales as strong. Saddleback Maine opens for skiing Dec. 13. It adds about 100 employees in winter.

– Kathryn Skelton


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