December 18, 2012

Saddleback owners put price on their gem

The Berry family, which has invested $40 million and quadrupled the work force, wants $12 million for the 400-acre ski resort.

By Deirdre Fleming
Staff Writer

RANGELEY – The family that owns the Saddleback ski area has decided to sell after owning it for 10 years and investing $40 million in improvements.

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Saddleback's 44-acre glade called “Casablanca” along with more than five miles of black- and double-black diamond terrain is considered the largest section of top-to-bottom expert terrain east of the Mississippi.

Photo courtesy of Saddleback

Additional Photos Below


ELEVATION: 4,120 Feet

TRAILS: Beginner, 23; Intermediate, 20; Expert, 25

LIFT TICKETS: Adults $45-$59; Youths $39-49

BEST DEAL:Maine Days, All day on select Sundays for $29

WHAT ELSE: Four lifts, Iincluding one T-Bar, and a mid-station yurt cafe.



• From 45 to 121 condo units

• Addition of housing lots from none to 27, including seven with homes

• Two new chairlifts

• New expert terrain, including a 44-acre glade, one of the largest in the East

• Snowmaking that now covers 86 percent of the mountain

• A $13 million renovation of the base lodge

The Berry family listed the property with a Portland broker a month ago. It will consider whether to take on a partner or sell Saddleback outright.

Another option is to turn the ski area into a nonprofit, an idea the family likes and hopes would continue the resort's job-creation role in Franklin County.

Saddleback's work force has increased from 66 to 250 since the family bought it in 2003, said Faith Berry, one of seven Berry children, and the family wants to ensure that the ski area will continue to create jobs in a part of Maine with limited employment opportunities.

The asking price is $12 million for 400 acres of property that includes the ski trails and lifts, the base lodge and most of the surrounding 121 units.

The Berry family will keep 7,600 of the 8,000 acres it bought 10 years ago and hopes to remain involved with the ski area in some capacity.

"Saddleback is one of the most special places in the world," said Berry. "It's beautiful and exquisite and the townspeople are wonderful. We want to try to make sure (the sale) is done right. We want it done in a way that is sensitive to the beauty and the environment."

She said, "Our hope for a buyer is someone willing to be supportive of the local area, to be involved."

Sugarloaf and Sunday River, Maine's best-known ski areas, have more trails, more lifts and more skiers.

Saddleback, with an elevation of 4,120 feet, is one of Maine's biggest mountains. The ski area offers 2,000 vertical feet of skiing and some of the toughest expert terrain in the East.

"Saddleback is one of the premier mountains in the East, just in terms of raw material, said Andy Shepard, CEO of the nonprofit Maine Winter Sports Center, which operates Nordic and alpine ski areas around Maine.

"It's a big mountain, a beautiful mountain in a spectacular setting," he said. "If someone out there is passionate about alpine skiing and has the capital to invest, there are few places that could offer the rewards of a Saddleback."

Saddleback's remote location, three hours northwest of Portland, "is its greatest asset and its greatest drawback," said Joe Malone of Malone Commercial Brokers in Portland, which has listed the property.

With Rangeley Lake nearby, "Saddleback's biggest attraction is that it is a four-season place," he said. "Of course, Saddleback is critical to (Rangeley's) four-season tourism."

Malone said any buyer or partner will have to love Saddleback the way the Berry family does.

This week, the staff was at work in every part of the ski area, getting ready for the season's opening on Saturday.

On Thursday, as snow guns blew manmade snow and groomers smoothed it out, staff members learned that the ski area was up for sale.

While opening day will be business as usual, it was a difficult time for the staff, said General Manager Chris Farmer, although there was a hint of optimism.

Berry said her family has invested $40 million in Saddleback for two new chairlifts, a $13 million renovation of the base lodge, improved snowmaking that now covers 86 percent of the terrain, and development that has nearly tripled the number of condos.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

The $13 million renovated lodge was one of many upgrades the Berry family spent during their 10-year ownership of Saddleback. They put the ski area up for sale and will begin looking for a buyer outside Maine next week.

Photo courtesy of Saddleback

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A Nov. 26, 2004, photo of construction on the ski lodge at the Saddleback ski resort.

2004 file photo/The Associated Press

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Skier Larry Ross skiing Saddleback's Casablanca glade, which Saddleback CEO Warren Cook made sure was cut by people long familiar with the mountain, in January 2010.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Saddleback ski area's trail map in 2012, showing new lifts, trails, and real estate developments added under the Berry family's ownership.

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Saddleback ski area's trail map in 2003, during the first season under the Berry family's ownership.


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