Cold and miserable conditions do not sell skiing very well, but they apply to my first time skiing at what became — in some conditional ways — my favorite mountain. That peak’s life as a ski area is now in jeopardy.
It was about 1964 when my current wife and my late roommate piled into his old Bonneville and wound our snowy way for hours from Orono west to Rangeley, Maine, to a wonderful mountain called Saddleback.
By today’s standards, it was really rough. Western Maine gets a ton of snow, but with a kind of homemade “grooming” machine that looked like a big VW on skis with a rake hanging down, you never came to expect grooming.
So you learned to ski the rough snow and unbroken ice, and if you were lucky enough to get an instructor named Dan Dacey, in about 10 sessions and dedicated practice, you could manage to survive about any kind of conditions, even wearing long wooden Kastle skis with leather tie boots that looked something like bowling shoes.