Four years after being shuttered by well-intentioned but frustrated owners, Maine’s Saddleback Mountain finally has new hope. Boston-based Arctaris Impact Fund agreed this week to buy the mountain and begin preparations to reopen what was once the state’s third largest resort. The 59 year-old mountain is one of New England’s best which has seen more than its fair share of setbacks having nothing to do with the quality of the skiing. “This beautiful mountain has so much potential and it looks like the buyer has a strong plan moving forward,” said Dawn Klein, real estate broker for the Berry Family. “We are excited for the acquisition to be complete for the Saddleback Resort community and the entire Rangeley area.”
Bill and Irene Berry purchased Saddleback back in 2003 and spent some $40 million to build a new base lodge, South Branch lift, Kennebago quad and more. By 2015, the family was unable to obtain financing for replacing the Rangeley double, without which the ski resort would go out of business.
The years since have been difficult for the Berrys, the Rangeley community and everyone who loves Saddleback. In June 2017, an Australian investor named Sebastian Monsour revealed plans to purchase the mountain at a base lodge press conference. His Majella Group intended to replace Rangeley with a fixed-grip quad and Cupsuptic with a T-Bar, both from Doppelmayr. Majella and the Berrys never closed and no new lifts were installed.
Arctaris came on the scene after two more years of closure, signing a non-binding letter of intent to purchase the resort. The fund specializes in providing capital to growth-oriented businesses in inner cities and under-served rural regions across the United States. This September, both sides issued statements lamenting that negotiations had stalled. So it’s fantastic news that the two sides have now reconciled and signed an agreement.
The calendar says November and significant work lies ahead, making a quick reopening unlikely. While the highest and lowest elevation lifts are modern fixed-grip quads that saw some maintenance work during the closure, three lifts loading near the main base lodge average 56 years old and may need to be replaced.
Here’s to a speedy closing and lifts spinning some time in 2020.
Update 11/8: Andy Shepard, who will be the new general manager, said in an interview that two new lifts are planned to be built next summer: a high speed quad version of Rangeley and a T-Bar replacement for Cupsuptic. Closing is scheduled for mid-December and reopening planned for between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2020.
What will replace Rangeley now? Fixed quad still? Or HSQ?
I heard a high speed quad
HSQ for Rangeley would be huge.
It would be perfect because then the mountain will be more intermediate/ begginer friendly with easier loading and faster lift ride and would be able to keep up with the growing skier visits that Saddleback had been experiencing in its previous ownership
But what would happen to the exising double?
scrap. they could sell the chairs but the rangely double needs to be replaced and was the reason why saddleback stopped operating in the first place.
WGAN radio, Portland doesn’t have the text of their report on their site yet. It was a few sentences. Here is my verbatim attempt at two: “He (Andy Shephard) says that his group has invested $38 mill. in the ski area. Plans call for replacement of all lifts, including a high speed detachable quad that will take riders to the top of the mountain in 4 min.” The reporter used the past tense for investments. That’s a mistake. Their five lifts include two quads built in 2004 and 2008. Those can’t be due for replacement. On the other hand, Arctaris may be back to replacing the Rangeley with a HSQ. While it won’t go to the true “top of the mt.”, a reporter wouldn’t make-up that type of lift.
Then they aired a clip of Andy Shepard. He simply spoke about attracting former and new skiers to the area. Nothing specific.
Hopefully, Arctaris puts a better website up also. Their current one is so archaic and dated.
Below is the text for of a Maine TV station. It’s “replace or renovate all lifts”. So I say that’s replace 2 or 3, and renovate 2. HSQ is now consistently stated. I think 4 min. means exact replacement of the Rangeley. Things are getting exciting.
SADDLEBACK MOUNTAIN (WGME) — There are big plans in the works at Saddleback.
The ski mountain closed down five years ago, but it’s under new ownership.
“The vibe at Saddleback is a unique vibe, and that’s what most people have missed,” Saddleback General Manager Andy Shepard said.
The new owners of Saddleback plan to pump millions of dollars into the lodge and the mountain to turn it into a first-class ski resort.
They plan to replace or refurbish all the ski lifts, including a new high-speed quad chairlift to get skiers to the top of the mountain in four minutes.
“We feel like there is a Saddleback customer that has been forced to go someplace else for the last five years, but we also know there are a lot of skiers who used to ski here who just stopped skiing,” Shepard said. “We’re hoping to bring those people back off the couch and onto the slopes again.”
As for the lodge, the biggest renovation will take place in the bar and restaurant on the top floor.
General Manager Andy Shepard says they plan to extent the floor all the way to the windows.
“With the floor all the way out there, imagine that view is going to be one of the more spectacular views in the east,” Shepard said.
He says they also plan to make Saddleback a year-round destination, with a mountain coaster, mountain bikes, hiking and even weddings at the top of the mountain.
“We want the lodge to be a year-round community center, recreation center,” Shepard said.
Condo owners are thrilled with the plans to reopen Saddleback.
“It is a wonderful thing for the area,” condo owner Bonnie McGowen said. “When we first bought here, the restaurants were all full and everything was just bubbling everywhere.”
Business owners in nearby Rangeley, who say they lost about a third of their customers when Saddleback closed, are also overjoyed over plans to reopen the ski resort.
“Everybody in town is ecstatic,” Tyler Bessey of Sarge’s Sports Pub and Grub said. “The economy has been suffering because of that. So that’s going to come back, and just the general spirit in town has lifted.”
In all, Arctaris plans to invest $38 million into the ski resort. They also plan to hire as many as 240 full and part-time employees.