Could this (finally) be it?
Ever since its lifts shuttered after the 2015 season, the hopes of one day seeing Maine’s Saddleback Mountain return as a vibrant skiing and riding destination have swelled like the tide.
In 2017, the Berry family, which had owned the ski area since 2003 and announced its intentions to sell in 2013, reached an agreement for sale with the Australian Majella Group. That offered some promise. At least until CEO Sebastian Monsour was soon arrested in Australia for investor fraud. So, there went that.
Last fall, the Berry family reached an agreement with Arctaris Impact Fund of Boston to sell the resort, and left the community of Rangeley on pins and needles with each development. But it seems as if a major hurdle has been cleared in order for the sale to be cleared later this week.
Earlier this week, the Finance Authority of Maine approved a loan and loan insurance both necessary for Arctaris to proceed with its purchase of the mountain.
According to the Lewiston Sun-Journal, “the board unanimously approved $2.5 million in loan insurance on a $12.5 million loan, which was smaller than the original request, along with a $1 million direct loan. Arctaris Impact Fund also raised private funds and received a separate $1 million loan through the Maine Rural Development Authority.”
In a message to the Friends of Saddleback Mountain Facebook group, Andy Shepard, who will serve as general manager of the ski area, wrote, “A sincere thank you to all of you for your patience through what we know has been a really difficult process. Following closing by the end of the month the real work begins and we can’t wait.”
The plan is to re-open Saddleback for the 2020-21 skiing and riding season.
Shepard told New England Ski Journal last fall that more of the group’s intentions for revitalizing Saddleback will be announced after closing, but that significant improvements will be made.
Lifts will be replaced and improvements will be made to the base lodge and snowmaking. Four-season opportunities, including mountain-biking and a sugaring business will be introduced. There will also be an expansion of the trail system, and a push to make sure mountain opens as a top-flight resort.
“This is not going to be your grandfather’s Saddleback,” Shepard said.
But it sure looks like it will be ours again.
Meier Skis owner Ted Eynon shared an anecdote with me that I wasn’t able to fit into the piece I wrote for the February edition of New England Ski Journal. But it was one that I thought illustrated an important aspect of the custom ski experience.
Eynon, a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, was skiing on a pair of his own custom skis with a college friend (also a small investor in the Colorado-based company) a few years ago, when fellow lift-riders would constantly ask him about the original design and concept of the skis.
“It was one of those days where the snow would melt off enough so you could see the top sheets,” Eynon said. “Everybody would ask about the skis, every time.”
The questions were so consistent that Enyon’s friend displayed mock annoyance in beating the inquisitors to the punch as soon as they got on the lift. “Go ahead Ted, tell them about Meier.”
It’s a familiar situation for anyone who has gone through the custom ski-buying experience. It’s like being part of a tribe, a select group of skiers who have decided to enhance their time on the mountain with a ski that truly speaks to their needs and personality.
“We have a lot of community around the brand that those bigger ski brands don’t have,” Boston-based Parlor Skis owner Mark Wallace once told me. “If you’re on Parlors, somebody is going to stop you and be like, ‘Oh do you know those guys? Do you love your skis? You go have a beer, take a couple runs. That doesn’t happen on Volkl, it doesn’t happen on any of these other brands.”
I’m currently in my third season on my Parlor Kingfishers, and such conversations are a guaranteed aspect of any day I spend on the slopes. It’s a shared experience that’s original from any other on the mountain, a curiosity or a prompt of sorts to have an experience with your fellow skier or rider.
I don’t get those sorts of moments when I rotate through my Rossignols or Völkls, depending on the day. But custom conversation is part of the package when designing your own ski, an avenue that enhances the camaraderie.
Jimmy Fund Show Challenge at Nashoba
Register now for the 25th annual Jimmy Fund Snow Challenge fundraiser, taking place Saturday at Nashoba Valley in Westford, Mass. This day of team and individual ski and snowboard racing will help support cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Entry fee is $240 for a four-person race team and $60 for individual racers. All racers receive a lift ticket for the day and a barbecue lunch. Teams are encouraged to raise money on their own as well. For every $150 raised above the registration fee, one second is deducted from the final race time, so everyone has a chance to win. After hitting the slopes, all participants will gather in the Nashoba Valley Ski Area lounge to celebrate with an après-ski party that includes an awards ceremony and live auction.
On-site registration begins at the mountain at 9 a.m., though pre-registration is encouraged at www.jimmyfund.org/snow. Lunch will be served starting at 11:30 a.m. and racing begins at noon.
For more information about the Jimmy Fund Snow Challenge, contact Chris Kitchin at email@example.com or 978-692-303.
Steals and deals
It’s been four years since the last time the New England Patriots didn’t play on Super Bowl Sunday, which might have you looking for something to do in lieu of preparing that killer artichoke dip all afternoon.
Ski resorts are trying to entice skiers and riders to explore the outdoors on Super Bowl Sunday instead of getting sucked into the nonstop blabber before the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers kick off in Super Bowl LIV. Both Attitash and Wildcat Mountain are offering $49 lift tickets when purchased in advance. King Pine skiers and riders can score half-price tickets at the window on Sunday, and Bretton Woods is offering $54 lift tickets.
New England Ski Journal TV visits Loon Mountain Resort
Take a trip with New England Ski Journal TV to New Hampshire’s always-bustling Loon Mountain Resort in the town of Lincoln. Catch new episodes on NESN today at 2:30 p.m. and Feb. 7 at 1:30 p.m. when we visit Waterville Valley. (The Waterville episode will also air Jan. 31 at 1 a.m., and Feb 5 at 5:30 p.m. on NESN Plus.)