The East's Sleeping Beauty of Ski Resorts

An Australian company buys Saddleback Mountain in hopes of reawakening one of Maine's largest resorts
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The ski-resort landscape continues to change, with the latest seismic shift being the purchase of Maine’s Saddleback Mountain by an Australian-based conglomerate with no previous experience operating a ski resort. 

After being closed for the past two winters, Saddleback Mountain, Maine’s third largest ski resort, has been bought for an undisclosed sales price by the Majella Group, a "multinational company operating in a number of sectors including technology, design, engineering, project management, consulting services, property developments and financial services," according to its website. Headquartered out of Brisbane, Australia, the group also has offices in the U.S., China and the Philippines.

The announcement of the deal said that there isn't a firm date yet for re-opening the resort, as the new owners need to asses and prioritize capital improvements. Although the agreement will not be finalize until later this summer, the group, headed by Sebastian Monsour, will be able to take immediate control of the mountain in order to begin the work it will take to get the resort up and running.

“We look forward to getting to know the Western Maine community and working with the town of Rangeley to revive this magnificent property,” Monsour said in a press release.

New leadership marks the start of a new day for Maine's Saddleback Mountain Resort. 

New leadership marks the start of a new day for Maine's Saddleback Mountain Resort. 

Saddleback closed in 2015 when owners Bill and Irene Berry were unable to replace the Rangeley Double Chair lift. Updating old lifts are a top priority for Majella. 

“As soon as we can deliver a skiing experience that is consistent with our values and meets the needs of our skiing community, we will announce our plans for re-opening,” Monsour said. “Our commitment to you is not to over promise, but to move expeditiously and communicate transparently.”

For the past several years, the Berry family has been looking to turn Saddleback over to new hands, after purchasing the resort when it threatened to close in 2003. Before settling on Majella, the Berrys received several other inquiries about the resort, including an effort by the nonprofit Saddleback Mountain Foundation, which was a partnership between passholders and local businesses.

“We believe that Majella has the vision, the economic horsepower, and the will to develop Saddleback into the four-season resort we have long envisioned,” Bill Berry said.

With recreation increasingly driving the Maine economy, the reopening of Saddleback should drive hundreds of jobs back into the area, especially with plans to develop four-season activities at the resort. Local and state politicians applauded the deal as a way to revive the local economy. With its lack of experience operating a ski resort, Majella said it plans to retain a number of Saddleback executives and staff to help upgrade and run the resort.

Saddleback is located in west central Maine, about 125 miles west of Bangor, and tucked in close to both the Vermont and Canadian borders. The deal covers all of the resort holdings, including more than 6,000 acres. 

At 4,120 feet, Saddleback has an impressive summit elevation for the Northeast, ranking in the top 10, helping to provide consistently decent snow conditions. The resort also has a robust vertical drop for the East, coming in at approximately 2,000 feet.  

After a visit to Saddleback in 2011, Monsour and his family fell in love with the resort and decided to invest in the area because it “felt like home,” Monsour said at a news conference.

“We want you to know that our team understands the importance of Saddleback to the people of Maine, not only as an exceptional ski mountain, but as an economic driver for the entire Rangeley region,” Monsour said. “Our hope is to create a premiere four-season resort that leverages all the region has to offer.”

Saddleback’s new management team will include Fred LaMontagne as the resort’s CEO, previous Saddleback manager Jim Quimby as head of Mountain Operations, and Rangeley residents Greg Andrews and Perry Williams for a “top-notch local and experienced team.” 

The Saddleback deal continues the dramatic recent changes, and consolidations, in ski resort ownership. Vail Resorts purchased Whistler Blackcomb, the busiest resort in North America, last summer. 

And more recently, Aspen/KSL purchased Intrawest, which operates Steamboat, in addition to a number of other resorts. And then Aspen/KSL followed that up by buying California's Mammoth Mountain, which is in the top 10 resorts for skier days. 

Stay tuned, there is sure to be more movement in resort ownership.   

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