A coalition of nonprofits say they have reached verbal agreements with the owners of Saddleback Mountain to purchase the Rangeley ski resort and the land around it.

The Saddleback Mountain Foundation, a newly formed group of Rangeley businesses and Saddleback season-pass holders, told the Portland Press Herald that it has a verbal agreement with Irene and Bill Berry to purchase Saddleback’s core ski area for $6 million. The foundation would pay the Berrys $2.2 million in cash at closing and then an additional $3.8 million over time in a loan financed through the seller. The Berrys also would receive royalties on future land sales, according to the foundation.

The Trust for Public Land, along with the New England Forestry Foundation, said it has reached an agreement with the Berrys to purchase another 3,249 acres around the ski area to preserve as conservation land. That sale price has yet to be determined, said Wolfe Tone, the Maine state director for the Trust for Public Land.

Neither Saddleback general manager Chris Farmer nor the Berrys responded to calls seeking comment Wednesday.

The Saddleback Mountain Foundation and the Trust for Public Land are planning a news conference Thursday morning in Portland to announce the sale agreements and to launch a fundraising campaign for the foundation.

Saddleback, Maine’s third-largest ski resort, sat idle last winter after the Berrys were unable to come up with financing to purchase a chairlift that they said was needed to keep the resort open. Saddleback drew between 80,000 and 100,000 skiers in its last few seasons of operation, according to the Berrys, and with 350 employees had been the third-largest employer in Franklin County during the winter.


Peter Stein, chairman of the Saddleback Mountain Foundation, said his group plans to raise $4 million, with $1.8 million to be invested in operating costs at Saddleback. He said the group has yet to raise any money, but received $5 million in pledges this summer when exploring community interest for buying the resort.

Stein said there is no deadline to raise the money and it’s uncertain whether the resort would open this winter. He is confident, however, that the group will be able to raise the $4 million soon, now that it has a verbal agreement with the Berrys.

“This is a big step,” he said. “And this initiative is only possible because of the trust and the New England Forestry Foundation.”

The Trust for Public Land has a verbal deal to purchase the land next to the ski area and along the Appalachian Trail, which runs over the mountain. Tone said the trust first spoke with the Berrys two years ago about conserving the land they own next to the AT. This summer the trust quickly became a part of the conversation with Saddleback Mountain Foundation, because Tone said he’s seen big conservation deals happen when groups work together.

“This is about the ecological significance and the recreational opportunity and the health of a working forest and the local economy,” he said. “What we are willing to do as a conservation agency is to get out in front of this and acquire 3,300 acres. This (purchase) only works if we do that.”

Tone is confident the trust will reach a signed purchase-and-sale agreement and raise the needed funds.


The Berrys bought Saddleback and 8,000 acres around it in 2003 and invested $40 million in improvements, including a new base lodge, two quad chairlifts, new trails and improved snowmaking equipment.

In July 2015, the Berrys announced that unless they secured $3 million for a new chairlift they would have to close for the winter. When they did not get financing, they announced two months later that they were in negotiations to sell the ski area. But no sale transpired and the resort did not open last winter.

The closure upset season-pass holders and hurt the local economy, which depends on snowmobiling and skiing traffic.

“This past winter, the Rangeley region experienced $17 to $20 million in lost revenue because Saddleback was closed,” said Stephen Philbrick, owner of Bald Mountain Camps in Oquossoc and a member of the Saddleback Mountain Foundation.

“I worked at Saddleback in food services for 17 years. It’s important to Franklin County that Saddleback exists.”

Philbrick held the first meeting with area business owners this summer to see if there was support for the idea of a community-owned ski area. He said it is the best solution for Saddleback.


Stein agreed.

“This is very much about the community,” said Stein, who lives on the mountain in Sandy River Plantation. “This is structured like a cooperative. No one in this will be looking for financial return. The money it makes will stay in the business. The main reason this works is because it’s different from what it’s been.”

Stein said the fundraising will determine whether the resort operates this winter.

“It depends how much we are able to raise and how fast,” he said. “We will not jeopardize the long term for one season. But we want to be sensitive to everyone … especially to the economic impact this has had on the region.”

CORRECTION: This file was updated at 3 p.m. on Oct. 27 to clarify the total cost to purchase Saddleback ski area.

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