Five years ago, Mark Berry and his six brothers and sisters bought a mountain - as you do - in Maine, in the north-east corner of the US.
The family mountain is called Saddleback and covers 8,000 acres of glorious forests and lakes.
Now Berry is trying to persuade British buyers in search of natural, wild beauty to journey across the Atlantic and buy a few bargain acres of America.
“I have skied here since I was three,” says Berry, now in his fifties. “When the mountain came up for sale we clubbed together with our parents and bought it. It’s a beautiful place that provides good skiing and good value.”
The family paid £4.4 million for Saddleback and has spent £16.6 million to date adding new lifts, accommodation and cutting new pistes. “Our goal here is to take advantage of the 8,000 acres without wrecking the wonderful wildness of the mountain,” says Berry. “Unlike many US resorts, the ski trails meander through the trees.”
You will be thankful for the trees if you ski there because temperatures on the 4,120ft mountain can drop to an eye-watering minus-30 degrees Celsius. Snowfalls begin as the autumnal leaves tumble and last well into April, averaging 200 inches a year.
But the long season means good rentals from the American family market while summers are equally action-packed. There are 60 lakes within an hour and hikers, bikers and outdoor fiends have plenty to occupy them.
'There are more moose than people and no designer shops. It's all about natural beauty'
Saddleback is selling property from £91,440 for one-bedroom apartments and, from £197,850, four-bedroom semi-detached homes. Accommodation is spacious and well finished, with lake or mountain views.
UK-based agent New England Concepts has one- to three-acre plots at Saddleback with new detached houses from £277,100. The properties are modular: pre-fabricated wooden chalets built by a local firm with a 20-year structural guarantee.
Richard Jennings of New England Concepts says its aim is to provide keen pricing on modern homes in a year-round resort. Saddleback is a four-hour drive north from Boston, a distance that Jennings admits deters some would-be buyers. “But once you are here it’s very special,” he argues. “There are more moose than people. If you are looking for somewhere like Chamonix or Courchevel with designer shops, then this is not for you. This is about extraordinary natural beauty.”
Seven miles down from Saddleback Mountain, the small town of Rangeley is a popular summer destination. James Eastlack of local agent Morton & Furbish says prices today are lower than in 2007, and sales have slowed but, as a predominantly second-home destination, there haven’t been the drastic falls suffered elsewhere in America.
“We are a resort market, so sellers can generally afford to be patient,” says Eastlack. “Rangeley is a four-seasons resort benefiting from a deep-water lake stocked with salmon and trout and access to good skiing on the mountain. That’s what keeps our values.”
Eastlack has three-bedroom chalets in one-acre plots for £166,260 and lakefront cottages for £277,100. New England Concepts is selling off-plan lodges with three bedrooms for £202,280.
These handsome homes have good views over Rangeley Lake and easy access to the simple bars and restaurants in town. As at Saddleback, these properties are open-plan and combine traditional New England architecture with modern interior design.
Maine bills itself as the Pine Tree State, with 90 per cent of the state heavily forested. The 3,500-mile rocky coastline is the longest of any US state and there are state parks and lakes galore. You won’t find too many bright lights in western Maine.
Even on a night out most people wear nothing flashier than checked shirts and jeans but at Saddleback you’ll see moose, deer, bald eagles and even an occasional black bear. If you like peace, quiet, snow and overwhelming natural beauty, then that four-hour drive may just be worth it.
Saddleback Village: 001 207 864 3881; www.saddlebackvillage.com.
New England Concepts: 01423 816155; www.newenglandconcepts.com.
Morton & Furbish: 001 207 864 5777; www.morton-furbish.com.
The Maine attractions
Location: Maine covers 35,380 square miles and is the largest of the six New England states (the others are Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont). It is the most easterly state of the US, bordering the Atlantic Ocean to the south and east, New Hampshire to the west and Canada to the north. Maine is known for its rocky coastline, exceptional seafood and vast, unpopulated inland forests. Saddleback and Rangeley lakes are both in the Western Maine Mountains, 230 miles north of Boston. Saddleback, at 4,120ft, is one of seven ski mountains in New England.
Access: Most visitors from London arrive in Boston on daily Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines or BA flights and drive north to Maine. Bangor airport is two hours from Saddleback and there are 35-minute flights on Delta from Boston.
Climate: The western region of Maine has a humid continental climate. Expect humid summers with temperatures averaging 25 degrees Celsius, while winters are cold with average temperatures of minus-11 degrees Celsius.
* Buying costs average £1,385.
* Annual maintenance fees at Saddleback and Rangeley Lakes average £1,163 to £1,607.
* Saddleback Mountain has 64 trails with 12 “top to bottom slopes”, including a three-mile green (beginner) one. A day ski pass is £22 and a season pass is £221.