Maine's popular Saddleback ski resort season in jeopardy

AP News
Posted: Jul 20, 2015 9:50 PM

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The popular Saddleback ski area will not open for the coming winter season if it can't finance a new chairlift, the operators of the resort said Monday.

Saddleback owner Mark Berry said the resort, the third-largest ski mountain in Maine, needs to replace a 51-year-old double chair lift with a four-person lift in order to survive financially.

The resort needs $3 million to fund the new lift, and the order must be in place within the next two weeks to have it running for the upcoming season, he said. The company is looking to investors and lenders to come up with money for the new lift.

"For the last several months, we've been actively seeking the necessary financing to replace the chairlift, however time is running out," Berry said.

Replacing the lift is about economics more than safety, general manager Chris Farmer said. The existing 4,717-foot Rangeley Double Chair is the main access from the resort's base lodge to the top of Saddleback Mountain. It is a major bottleneck that needs to be alleviated, and replacing it with a four-person lift will encourage more people to come to the resort, Farmer said.

The resort struggled in the 2014-15 season, because extreme weather conditions made it difficult for skiers to make it to the resort, Farmer said.

"We're working with two or three lenders right now, but we're getting down to the wire," he said. "If we don't have it in two weeks, we don't have it."

Saddleback is located in Rangeley, about 120 miles north of Portland, in western Maine. Its season typically starts mid-November and runs through the end of March, with some weekend skiing in April.