A maple-sugaring operation, mountain bike trails and a mountain coaster are in the plans for Saddleback Mountain ski area, which has been sold to a Boston investment company, the resort’s new general manager said.
The sale to Arctaris Impact Fund of Boston was announced yesterday by the Berry family, which has owned the resort since 2003. The sale is expected to close in mid-December for an undisclosed amount.
At its peak Saddleback Mountain attracted 110,000 skiers in a season, but it has been closed since the 2014-15 season. The Berrys cited high capital investments to continue operations as the reason for shutting the resort.
The resort was a major economic driver for the Rangeley region. The new owners plan to hire a couple hundred people. Details of the investment and potential economic impact will be revealed after the sale closes, general manager Andy Shepard told the Bangor Daily News.
“This is part of a larger economic development strategy,” Shepard said. “We have an investment portfolio that we’re looking to play out over the first eight years we own the mountain.”
The sale involves Saddleback Inc. and Saddleback Land and Timber Corp.
Saddleback is the eighth highest mountain in Maine at 4,120 feet. It has 2,000 vertical feet of skiing, according to the Berry’s announcement.
Shepard said the new owners will invest heavily in the resort, including replacing an outdated double chairlift with a high-speed quad chair, redesigning the base lodge with a new kitchen and bathrooms and increasing snowmaking capacity.
“We also plan to add a mountain coaster, which is like a toboggan run on rails,” he said. “They are popular in Europe and are a way to experience mountain views year-round.”
The coaster can travel up to 25 miles per hour, Shepard said.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “You can look at Saddleback Lake and Rangeley Lake.”
The Berrys and Arctaris have been negotiating the sale since 2018, at times acrimoniously. That included a squabble as recently as late September over a letter of intent to buy the property, according to a WGME report.
An earlier attempt to sell the resort to an Australian buyer fell through within the past year.
Shepard would not comment on specifics of what made the difference in the agreement between Arctaris and the Berry’s this time.
“Both parties acknowledged it is important for this to happen,” he said.
Jonathan Tower, managing partner of Arctaris, was not immediately available for comment.
The Rangeley community has been eager to see the resort come back to life.
“We’re very appreciative and thankful that the Berry’s and Arctaris stayed at the table and worked through the process,” said David Miller, executive director of the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization that has helped bring the community together with the potential buyers.
In July Arctaris outlined its vision for the mountain before members of the community, he said. But he said he doesn’t know the details of the current agreement.
“But they’re committed to getting it open,” he said.