- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

RANGELEY, Maine (AP) - A coalition of local businesses and ski enthusiasts is planning to purchase the Saddleback Mountain ski area and surrounding land as soon as it can raise $4 million, officials said Thursday.

Saddleback Community Mountain Resort LLC has reached an agreement with the owners of Saddleback to purchase the ski area for $6 million, plus future land sale royalties.

The deal calls for the nonprofit to raise $2.2 million for a down payment while the seller will finance the remaining $3.8 million, said Peter Stein, who’s leading the effort.

The nonprofit must raise an additional $1.8 million in operating capital on top of the down payment, he said.

Additionally, the Trust for Public Land and the New England Forestry Foundation will buy 3,249 acres around Saddleback to preserve as conservation land. The sale price was not disclosed on Thursday.

In a statement, Saddleback General Manager Chris Farmer wished the group well in its fundraising efforts and said the owners would continue working with the group and “other qualified buyers.”

Saddleback, Maine’s third-largest ski resort, was closed last winter after the Berry family was unable to finance a chairlift they needed to keep it open.

Stein said the double-chair lift needs to be replaced to increase capacity but that it’s not dangerous. He said the lift may or may not be put into service if the resort opens for the season. The goal is to replace it before the 2017-2018 season, he said.

Whether the resort can open depends on whether Stein’s group can secure the money.

The group said a survey and other financial queries made earlier this year showed there are “more than 800 people interested in keeping the mountain open and more than $5 million in commitments.”

The Berry family bought the resort in 2003 and put it up for sale in 2012 for $12 million.

Saddleback drew upward of 100,000 skier visits per year before it closed last season. With 350 employees, it had been the third-largest employer in Franklin County during the winter.

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This story has been corrected to show the transaction price is $6 million plus future royalties, not $2.2 million, and that $1.8 million will be used for operating capital, not capital improvements.

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