February 9, 2011

Flirting on the chairlift at Saddleback

Resort plans Valentine’s Day speed dating event

RANGELEY -- Not many couples can say they fell in love while suspended 30 feet in the air, overlooking snow-covered pine trees and listening to the swoosh of skiers passing below.

But this is the kind of romantic encounter Saddleback ski resort hopes to create with its unique Valentine's Day speed dating event planned for Monday, JoAnne Taylor, marketing director at Saddleback, said.

Unlike more familiar speed dating events, where singles meet for a series of timed dates in a restaurant or bar, Taylor thought a chairlift ride would be a more suitable setting to get to know someone.

"I just thought what could be more perfect, you're on the chair for eight and a half minutes and you've already got three things in common; you love either snowboarding or skiing, you love Saddleback and you love the winter," she said.

A special speed dating line is scheduled to be open Monday, Feb. 14, for single men and women at the bottom of the resort's Rangeley chairlift.

All of the speed daters will be wearing a red heart-shaped sticker. This lets them get in the singles' line, and they can go on a series of eight-minute dates by taking rides on the double-seat chairlift up the mountain.

"When they get to the top they can ski down together or head right back to the lift for another ride up with someone new; it's a great way to meet people," Taylor said.

Food and drink specials for Valentine's Day in the resort's restaurant and bar are also planned for when they reach the base lodge, she said.

Should a speed dating encounter really work out, Taylor said, she is also licensed to marry couples as a universal life minister and the resort's wedding planner.

"They can run into town and get a marriage license and I'll marry them," she said.

About 20 weddings take place at Saddleback each summer, she said, and this is the resort's first speed dating event on a chairlift. Taylor said she didn't know of any other chairlift speed dating events at other ski resorts.

But it isn't the first attempt by Taylor to bring a little more romance to Saddleback.

Her first idea was to have single employees wear buttons that said "Marry Me Ski Free," Taylor said, referring to the policy that full-time employees' dependents get free season passes.

While that idea may have been "over the top," it's true that a lot of couples married at the resort are Saddleback skiers, she said.

"I'm getting married to a Saddleback skier who counts the free season pass as a major benefit, a real deal sealer," Taylor joked.

Saddleback is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and lift tickets for Valentine's Day are discounted to $25 for all skiers and snowboarders.

There is no charge for the speed dating and no age requirements, Taylor said. Skiers and riders of all skill levels can ride the Rangeley chairlift, which services easy, intermediate and expert trails.

The forecast in Rangeley on Monday calls for temperatures dipping to 5 below zero in the morning, but reaching the upper 20s later in the day, said Butch Roberts, meteorological technician at the National Weather Service in Gray. The forecast doesn't call for much wind during the day, he said.

David Robinson -- 861-9287


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