Skiers were skeptical Thursday about whether Saddleback Maine will open this winter despite the resort’s Facebook announcement a day earlier that it is exploring several options for remaining financially viable.

In July, Saddleback said it would not open for the 2015-16 season if it couldn’t raise $3 million within two weeks to replace an aging chairlift. On Wednesday evening, the resort posted on its Facebook page that it had “exhausted all reasonable financing options” for replacing its 51-year-old Rangeley Double Chair with a high-speed quad that could double the number of skiers moved up the mountain per hour.

But the Facebook post also outlined four scenarios the owners are considering: a potential buyer who would install a new lift this year; another who would keep the resort closed this winter and install a new lift later; two buyers looking to purchase the ski area and run it as is this winter; and a possible option for leasing the resort this winter.

The resort’s ownership declined to comment Thursday when contacted by the Portland Press Herald. Saddleback General Manager Chris Farmer said last week in an email to the newspaper that the resort had two deals from potential investors on the table.

Farmer said in July that the resort has been operating at a loss since the real estate crash of 2008, and that owners Bill and Irene Berry of Farmington have had to cover some operating costs since then.

The Berrys bought the ski area in 2003 and their family invested $40 million in the resort, making improvements that included adding two new quad chairlifts and a new base lodge. The family put the area up for sale in 2012. It employs more than 300 people.


Skiers said Thursday that they hope Saddleback will remain open, but some doubted whether a deal could happen in time for the winter season.

Heather Newman MacKinnon of Brunswick, a member of the Saddleback ski patrol, said Thursday her family is not making other ski plans until she hears the mountain is closed this season.

“I am very hopeful one of the four options will come through. I have faith Chris Farmer and the team will come up with a solution that everyone can live with,” MacKinnon said. “We don’t know what they’re working on. It’s been for sale for a while. Things could be in place and they just need to work out the details.”

Others said the idea of installing a chairlift this year is unrealistic.

“I don’t see an option where a lift will go in before this season,” said Mike Chase of Westbrook, a part-time ski instructor at the resort and a Saddleback skier for 30 years. “I just think the timing is off, so much has to be done to prep. I think it would be very difficult to get a lift in and open with a new lift. But I think most people who have been there would be happy with the mountain just opening.”

Others were skeptical any of the options will come to pass in time for this winter.


“It was great news to hear that Saddleback is in negotiations with prospective buyers, but I am apprehensive that a decision will come quickly enough,” said Jeff Marcoux, one of the volunteers on the glade crew at Black Mountain of Rumford.

“Saddleback holds a special place in my heart, as it also does for many Maine skiers. It has not lost it’s identity throughout the years.”

Barry Tripp of Carrabassett Valley was even more skeptical.

“I think it’s really up in the air. When they first started the discussion of not opening without upgrades, that seemed bizarre. It seemed odd,” Tripp said. “If they shut down there is a pretty big contingent of families that will really be hurt, particularly the kids who ski there. It would be a tragic loss.”


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