Saddleback Needs $3 Million for New Lift to Avoid Closure

Maine’s third largest ski resort is in trouble.  We knew something was up earlier this summer when Saddleback put their main out-of-base lift up for sale on Resort Boneyard for $350,000.  Today the Berry family definitively announced the 52-year old Rangeley lift will not spin again.  The lift has upgraded Doppelmayr terminals but aging towers, line equipment and chairs.  $3 million is needed by August 1st to build a new Doppelmayr fixed-grip quad or the ski area will close.

The 4,550' Rangeley double has reached the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced.
The 4,550′ Rangeley double has reached the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced.

Saddleback’s story includes decades of ups and downs like many mid-sized New England ski resorts.  A bank foreclosed on the entire property in 1975 but it remained open.  In 2002, the previous owners announced Saddleback would close.  Local skier Bill Berry stepped in and bought the mountain for $8 million in 2003.  After their first season of ownership, the Berry family invested heavily in lifts, installing the South Branch quad and replacing both of Rangeley’s terminals with new Doppelmayr CTEC ones in 2004.  A new James Niehues trail map was commissioned that at one point showed six new lifts to be built.  The Kennebago T-Bar was replaced with a Doppelmayr CTEC quad in 2008 but no other lifts ever got completed.

Saddleback needs $3 million for a new Doppelmayr quad to match Kennebago, seen here.
Saddleback needs $3 million for a new Doppelmayr quad to match Kennebago, seen here.

At one point Saddleback's trail map showed six planned new lifts.
Saddleback’s 2008-09 trail map showed six planned lift expansions.

The Berrys put Saddleback up for sale for $12 million in 2012.  Today’s press release states three lenders are in talks to provide financing for a new Rangeley lift but nothing has been secured.  The order deadline for Doppelmayr to get a new quad finished for this winter is apparently August 1st.  Other ski areas have tried (and usually failed) crowdfunding to finance capital projects.  It will be interesting to see if Saddleback can find a way with such a short time frame.

The Rangeley double as seen in 2008.
The Rangeley double as seen in 2008.
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5 thoughts on “Saddleback Needs $3 Million for New Lift to Avoid Closure

  1. Mike July 21, 2015 / 3:54 pm

    It’s sad for sure, but they only have themselves to blame in some respect. They dropped a bunch of money into that Kennebago quad for the upper mtn to replace a t-bar, but had no equivalent solution for the lower mtn lift required to get there. Thus they were left with a 50 year old double as their main/only work horse out of the base providing access to much greater uphill capacity on the upper mtn. Perhaps they thought that the Rangely double would soon be replaced, but that seemed like a risky bet in this industry. Would have been smarter to simply install the quad in place of the Rangely double and then move the double to the current Kennebago alignment to replace the old t-bar. Such a shame, as Saddleback has the natural attributes to be one of the better ski areas in all of New England, let alone Maine.

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    • Peter Landsman July 22, 2015 / 9:18 pm

      Totally agree with you that Saddleback has the potential to be one of the best New England resorts. It’s crazy to see so much money about to be spent at The Balsams when Saddleback has better terrain and a huge head start. There is so much randomness to who wins and loses in the ski industry sometimes.

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