One of the state’s largest ski resorts is working on a longterm plan after not opening last year. Another will wait until spring to replace a ski lift that detached from its foundation.

And news broke on Thursday that Maine resorts Sugarloaf and Sunday River are among 14 properties across the country that are being sold by CNL Lifestyles to Missouri-based EPR properties.

But make no mistake: Winter is coming. And crews at Sunday River in Newry are already getting antsy, with folks at Saddleback in Rangeley mounting a fundraising drive in hopes of purchasing the mountain, which didn’t open for business last winter.

As mornings grow frostier and snow begins to fall at the higher elevations, here’s a look at the big ski stories on the horizon.

At Saddleback in Rangeley, loyal season pass holders had to look for other options last year, as the family that owns the resort was unable to find a buyer willing to open up the mountain. In January, the owners said they thought a deal was imminent. That never happened, and the ski area did not open at all last season.

Last week, Saddleback fans received some encouraging news.

A group calling itself Saddleback Community Mountain Resort LLC, hopes to raise enough money to buy the mountain and reopen the ski area in the future.

“We have been working with the owners of the mountain, the Berry family, on this for awhile and we now have their verbal agreement on the terms of a transaction and a roadmap to acquire the ski area,” said Peter Stein, organizer of the Saddleback Mountain Foundation and Saddleback Mountain Community Resort, said in a press release. “We need to raise $4 million and we will close on the deal.”

Crystal Canney of the Knight Canney Group, which is handling public relations for the community effort, was cautious, but did not rule out opening the mountain this winter.

“It depends on how much snow comes and how quickly we raise the money. It is not off the books,” Canney said.

Stein said several community members have expressed interest in making a financial commitment to the project.

While the Rangeley region also draws plenty of snowmobilers each year, the absence of Saddleback’s skiers for a second year has hurt local businesses.

“With Saddleback closed Rangeley and the greater surrounding area as a whole suffers, because we have less to offer the tourism industry,” Bald Mountain Camp owner Steve Philbrick said in the release. “When Rangeley suffers, the state of Maine suffers, Franklin County suffers, and the economic wheel in Maine suffers.”

Outreach over the last year — including a survey — indicated that more than 800 people were interested in keeping the mountain open, and people made $5 million in commitments. Organizers will now circle back and try to formalize those commitments, according to the release.

“We are now poised to build a great foundation for Saddleback and the surrounding community,” Stein said. “We are ready to go!”

At Sunday River, the resort recently announced that the broken Spruce Peak Triple chairlift will not be replaced until after the upcoming season. In July the lift became detached from its foundation. According to a Sunday River news release later that month, inspectors said that grout failure as a possible cause.

On Wednesday, Sunday River director of communications Darcy Lambert said contingency plans are in place for skiers this winter.

“I think what’s most important for guests to know is that all Spruce Peak terrain will remain open throughout the winter, as conditions allow, and can be accessed by the Aurora Peak Quad [chairlift],” Lambert said in an email.

Sunday River is a large ski area, with more than a dozen lifts.

The resort received a hint of winter last week, but fall weather quickly returned.

“We had a great run of snowmaking last week, in addition to a snowstorm that left about 8 inches of snow on top of Aurora Peak (where we aim to open this year),” Lambert said. “This was quickly followed by rain and warmer temps. We still have a ways to open with top to bottom skiing on our Northern Lights trail as planned, but we’re close and looking forward to more snowmaking weather coming our way soon.”

But Lambert said she’s not sure exactly when Sunday River will open.

“We don’t publish set open and close dates because we try to open as early as possible and in turn stay open as late as possible,” Lambert said. “We’d love to be open right now – it just hasn’t been in the weather cards.

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...