The welcoming committee were four-legged. Three moose arrived as if on cue at sunset as we navigated the mini-Kancamagus Route 17 with its glorious lake vistas before winding down to town. Rangeley is unassuming, more a western Maine sportsmen’s enclave than a ski town. It is anti-glitz with more camps than condos. Ski. Snowmobile. A perfect getaway if you’re looking for an outdoor weekend for singles or couples.
The 35-room Rangeley Inn
(2443 Main St., www.rangeleyinn.com
, 207-864-3341, $84-$159), circa 1907, oozes period charm with maple floors, wooden columns, original lobby hearth, and antiques galore. Tickle the keys on the lobby piano under the gaze of wildlife mounted on the walls. Rooms are simply furnished and contain either modern showers or vintage claw-foot tubs. Or if you want to be closer to the mountain, head out to Saddleback
(976 Saddleback Road, $175-$450, www.saddlebackmaine.com
, 877-864-5441) and check out the ski resort’s fully-furnished, one- to four-bedroom trailside lodges and condos that come complete with kitchens.
Looking for something a cut above? Try the Loon Lodge Inn and Restaurant
(16 Pickford Road, www.loonlodgeme.com
, 207-864-5666, entrees $20-$32, pub $12-$15, Wednesday-Saturday in winter 5-9 p.m.). A century-old former family camp once owned by publishing titan Guy Gannett, the atmosphere combines log cabin and casual backwoods elegance. The seasonal menu includes specialties such as a surf and turf Wellington with Maine crabmeat and shiitake mushrooms and a pan-seared salmon, topped with red-onion relish and roasted fennel. Thai Blossom Express
(2743 Main St., 207-864-9035, lunch and dinner $10.95-$20.95) can warm up a cold Rangeley night with its array of spices in traditional pad thai, a zesty basil stir fry, and lightly curried string beans. Be sure to read the wall to learn of the owner’s heroic exploits during the Iran hostage crisis some 30 years ago. Moosely Bagels
(2588 Main St., 207-864-5955, $2.99-$7.99) is a low-key, local lakeside stop that offers up satisfying breakfast and lunch sandwiches.
During the day
For downhill skiers, the place to be is 66-trail Saddleback Mountain
(976 Saddleback Mountain Road, www.saddlebackmaine.com
, 866-918-2225, adult lift tickets $49, children ages 7-18 $39, under 6 free), about seven miles from town. Saddleback has lots of cruising terrain with a 2,000-foot vertical drop making groomed runs like Green Weaver and Gray Ghost dreamy. Intermediate America showcases the region with its over-the-top mountain and lake vistas, while Hudson Highway is a mellow 3-miler. Tight turns and natural snow are found on challenging tree-skiing trails like Thrombosis and Intimidator. Casablanca houses new gladed runs for the double diamond specialist. Skiers and snowboarders of all abilities can relax and take in the alpine scenery at a new yurt at the base of the Kennebago chairlift. If downhill is not your speed, look to the Rangeley Lakes Trails Center
(Saddleback Mountain Road, www.xcskirangeley.com
, 207-864-4309, trail pass $17 weekend-holiday, $12 midweek), located on the way to the mountain. The center (its main office is a yurt) offers an extensive system of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, and it rents all the equipment you’ll need for a leisurely trek through the woods. A bonus: Sled dog rides leave from the yurt on weekends. Snowmobile enthusiasts can explore the region’s 150 miles of groomed trails. (For more information, contact Rangeley Chamber of Commerce, 6 Park Road, 207-864-5364, www.rangeleymaine.com
A little country, a little rock ’n’ roll. Start at the mountain’s base lodge in the Swig ’n Smelt Pub
(Saddleback, 207-864-5671, lunch and dinner from $6.95), a barebones tavern with live music Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. Sarge’s Sports Pub and Grub
(2454 Main St., 207-864-5616, lunch and dinner from $6.95) is the downtown party spot that rocks Friday and Saturday nights with live classic rock and dance tunes till 1 a.m. A pleasant diversion is the Lakeview Tavern at the Farmhouse Inn
(2057 Main St., 207-864-5805, www.rangeleyfarmhouseinn.com
, dinner with appetizers from $6.99, dinner from $15.99), a basement rathskeller with a Southwestern menu. Open mike Thursdays and live entertainment Saturdays.
Marty Basch can be reached through www.onetankaway.com.
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