RANGELEY, Maine — After five long years without its hometown ski area, the Rangeley community is ecstatic about the return of one of the area's winter staples: Saddleback Mountain.
"We're getting calls already for the winter season," Pleasant Street Bed and Breakfast Owner Rob Welch said.
It's welcome news for Welch at his top-rated B&B. Winter business has struggled since the closure of the mountain.
"My winter business was 95 percent skiers. And once the mountain closed we were down 85/90 percent of income just like that," Welch said.
But as he continues to winter reservations come back, he sees excitement come from all around town.
"The excitement in Rangeley is one of future anticipation of something that's going to be a steady component of our economy," Welch said.
Across town, a similar feeling of excitement is being felt at the Alpine Shop of Rangeley. Just three weeks after owner Sandy McDavitt took over the shop, the mountain announced it was closing.
"We did change our business model. We changed our staff, we changed our hours, we changed our buying," McDavitt said.
Business has stayed steady in the shop however, bringing in summer guests to the area. Shelves are stocked with Rangeley gear, and she's soon excited to start loading the shelves with clothes to keep you warm out on the slopes this winter.
"I'm ready, we'll make it work. We always have," McDavitt said.
Businesses have seen different levels of success during the five years without a mountain. The popular restaurant Sarge's Sports Pub & Grub has stayed strong. But being a popular spot for locals, long-time employee Margaret White says she hears about the community's excitement every day.
"There's a sense of joy from everybody that talks about it. All of the families in towns, families from out of town. Even people that just come into the bar talk about Saddleback all the time," White said.
The mountain is set to reopen on December 15.