Reviewed by Berne Broudy
Dec 04, 2008
Trace a line formed by Maine's State Routes 16, 27, 4, and 142 and you will encircle some of the state's highest mountains. In the southern part of the circle you'll find the long, impressive mass of Saddleback Mountain, from whose summit drop the twisty, wooded trails of Saddleback the ski resort.
Sugarloaf boasts 138 trails, 15 lifts, and a bustling village at the base.
Even on the biggest dump days the place is peaceful: Lift lines barely push four minutes, and locals take leisurely dips into untracked shots all day.
Arrive at Waterville, a mom-and-pop resort on a dead-end road, and you’ll wonder if you missed a turn. There’s no proper town—just Town Square, an off-site base area with 305 year-round residents. But the ski area’s 2,000 vertical feet are perfect for honing your GS turns or working on your park skills. (Waterville’s world-class parks were the breeding grounds of freeskiers Colby West and Mike Clarke.) Here you’ll find New Hampshire diehards, Boston weekend warriors, and other passionate skiers who don’t pronounce their Rs.
Quick Tip: On Mondays and Fridays, spin the Wheel of Deals at the ticket window. You can win a free ski tune or food with the purchase of a day pass. Land on “Big Loser” and you still get 2-for-1 tickets. The grand prize: a free day pass.
Backcountry Access: There’s no backcountry access from Waterville, but there are skiable slide paths on North Tri Pyramid across the valley from the resort. Skin up from the Depot Camp parking lot and follow Livermore Road Trail to Scour Ridge Trail. Bushwhack to the slide, skin it, and then ski it. Follow a drainage brook out to the trail. It’s nine-plus miles round-trip, and you’ll need a map and compass.
7 a.m. Sip French-pressed coffee at the Full Cup Press at Town Square’s Coffee Emporium, less than 10 minutes by bus from the mountain. Belgian waffles come with strawberries and local syrup but are served only on weekends. Weekdays, you’ll find pastries and smoothies.
8 a.m. First chair is at eight on weekends. Start on Tippecanoe, a wide, mellow cruiser down to the White Peak quad. Hit mini-features in the Little Slammer terrain park at the bottom.
9 a.m. On deep days, take the Sunnyside triple straight to True Grit, one of two double blacks on the mountain. It combines steep vertical and exposure…to those riding the chair over you. On your next two laps, ski the half-bumped, half-groomed Lower Bobby’s Run, followed by often-empty Ciao.
11 a.m. A lot of riders come to Waterville for the Exhibition Park, which has a 400-foot-long superpipe, 45-foot tabletops, double kink rails, and stair handrails at the bottom—all served by its own poma lift. Three learner parks are located on Lower Periphery, Rock Island, and Psyched.
Noon The Schwendi Hutte, at the top of the White Peak quad, serves fresh, homemade chicken pot pie and apple, peach, and berry strudel at bakery—not base-lodge—prices. The first batch of Chef Steve’s cookies comes out of the oven at 11 a.m.
2 p.m. Digest lunch on Psycho Glades, a mellow-pitched run with widely-space trees and a launchable 15-foot cliff.
3 p.m. Carve turns on Periphery, skier’s left of the Northside double chair, or rip top-to-bottom runs on White Caps and The Chute, 1,800 vertical feet of the best sustained pitch off the White Peak quad.
4 p.m. Locals flock to Buckets in the base lodge for draft PBR and ribs, wings, and curly fries. Play Guitar Hero or catch a live band on weekends.
7 p.m. The Coyote Grill serves the best meals in town. Lemon-pepper calamari, tender filets, and pan-seared ostrich are worth the $15-to-$22 prices. Sit at the bar for cheaper pub fare.
Late Night Hit Legends 1291 Sports Bar in Town Square to watch a Bruins or Celtics game and play foosball, pool, and darts. The crowd’s a mix of college kids and AARP masters racers.
Overnight At the Golden Eagle Lodge, the decor is dated, but the price is right: For $99 on weekdays and $230 on weekends, you get a one-bedroom suite that sleeps six and has a full kitchen (goldeneaglelodge.com). The room includes use of the indoor sports center across the street that has a pool, hot tub, and sauna.