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.
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.
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.