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OUTSIDE EDGE | Saddleback is back for first time in 5 years

For the first time in five years, skiers can return to Saddleback.

MAINE, USA — On The Outside Edge, the weekend of Dec. 11, we’re on the slopes. After a very weird and somewhat aggravating nor’easter, we’re happy to say that the ski areas did pick up quite a bit of snow. Sunday River recorded 10-12”, Saddleback 20-24”, and Sugarloaf 18”. 

We headed off to Sunday River this week to enjoy the goods from the storm and experience the pandemic ski season firsthand. The car was indeed our base lodge as we booted up, grabbed a snack, and headed to the entrance. Pass pickup was simple at the South Ridge Lodge. If you do have to pick up your season pass, account for some extra time to do that as the lines can be 10-15 deep and have the correct documentation on you. Ikon Pass holders should go to Guest Services.

Once on the lift, it seemed like a regular day on the slopes. Happy faces, deep carves, and the sweet sound of snow guns in the distance. Packed powder conditions are about as good as it gets for the first runs of the season.

Sunday River will begin utilizing the Chondola this weekend, which is the final weekend of pass holder-only skiing.

Waterville Valley

In the Granite State, Waterville Valley opened for the season on December 4, just in time for the storm to drop over 6” of fresh powder. Cranmore also opened this past week as well.

Wildcat opens for the season on December 11 and Attitash on December 12.

Saddleback 

Quite possibly the biggest news of the upcoming week is the official reopening of Saddleback after a five-year closure of the resort. General Manager Andy Shepard said they’ve been head down, nose to the grindstone for months on end, and therefore haven’t allowed the gravity of their immense work set in just yet. 

“Everyone’s been looking forward to the next week for the last five years, so you’d think that there’d be this incredible amount of nostalgia and emotion and everything else. We’re not there yet,” Shepard said.

On top of COVID protocols, they’ve had five years' worth of deferred maintenance to catch up on. They’ve had to make sure everything is ready for use after a long winter’s sleep, on top of training nearly an entire new staff. Though many mountain operations personnel did return, most of the staff is new. Let’s not forget how much technology can change in a year, let alone 5 years. They’re installing RFID systems, but given the worldwide demand for those, they are coming later than expected, and therefore season passes will have to be picked up at the mountain instead of being mailed home. All of this, on top of the sheer magnitude that comes along with opening a ski area. Shepard mentions, "We feel like these NASA headquarters during Apollo 13, Houston we got a problem. And we're just taking them each as they come one at a time. We're trying to deal with them as logically and in the spirit of what the saddleback family would expect.”

It is of the utmost importance to both the new and old Saddleback team, that the overall feel and vibe of the mountain remains the same as it was before the closure. And while it’s all business right now, the moment of nostalgia will come, as Shepard says, “I would guarantee that Tuesday afternoon there’s going to be a lot of people with the opportunity to finally reflect on what we’ve done and that will be a pretty special time.”

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