I missed Saddleback. I’ve always been a fan of Maine’s “Big Three,” so when Rangeley’s Saddleback shuttered operations in 2015, leaving Sugarloaf and Sunday River to carry the torch, I felt something was definitely amiss in the skiing universe.
We understand when small areas close. We even anticipate it. The ski industry, buffeted by COVID-19, climate change and keen competition for recreational dollars, is not a place for the faint of heart. But when a larger ski area ceases operations, it can send shockwaves through a region.
That’s how I felt seven years ago, when Saddleback owners announced they would cease operations at the resort if they couldn’t secure and install new lifts to replace the area’s outdated chairs. The lifts didn’t materialize, and Saddleback folded. The news hit me, a ski writer from Boston’s North Shore, hard. I couldn’t imagine how the loss must have resonated with the residents in and around Rangeley. The ski area at Saddleback Mountain opened in the early 1960s, and the mountain and the village have been inextricably linked ever since.
Fortunately for western Maine, reports of Saddleback’s ultimate demise were a bit exaggerated. It appears the revered ski area was simply hibernating for a few seasons. Today, Saddleback is back, and back in a big way.