Saddleback

joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
in NELSAP Forum Posts: 1,801
It appears that Saddleback has been sold to a group of Australian investors.  Details are sketchy, but stakes are in the ground for the Rangeley replacement.

I think this is unfortunate for the Saddleback community.  There is every reason to believe that the Aussies will attempt to compete directly with Sugarloaf and I don't think there are enough skiers in that region to support two Sugarloaf-style areas.  I suspect those who like a lower key ski area in that part of Maine will find their way to BMOM or Mt. Abrams.
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Comments

  • TomWhiteTomWhite advanced
    Posts: 476
    I think it has been too much money for the Portland, Maine group trying to buy it. A closed ski area isn't good for locals or vacationers. The longer it is closed, the more expensive it is to bring it back to life. Hopefully this group of investors call bring it back, at least for starters.
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,801
    TomWhite said:

    I think it has been too much money for the Portland, Maine group trying to buy it. A closed ski area isn't good for locals or vacationers. The longer it is closed, the more expensive it is to bring it back to life. Hopefully this group of investors call bring it back, at least for starters.

    The SMF group had negotiated a partnership with New England Forestry Foundation and pretty much had the funds lined up.  The Berrys really killed the deal with the foundation and wasted about $300K of SMF funds put up by 3 donors to pay for all the legal work and website development that the foundation did.  IMO, the new ownership (i.e. the Aussie group)  can only serve to hurt Sugarloaf.  If they have a five year plan (and I doubt they do), the SMF is not folding and will buy SB fixed up by the Aussies and they will pay less money for it whenever the new ownership determines that they don't want to underwrite the losses forever.
  • loafasaurloafasaur intermediate
    Posts: 28
    The extremely loyal and patient GM for Saddleback is "farmboy" on the Unofficial Sugarloaf Chat.  He posted Sunday morning:  "No check yet.  From anyone."  
  • obienickobienick expert
    Posts: 934
    I don't quite follow.

    You're saying the co-op that was formed to take over Saddleback lost the ski area because the Berrys negotiated behind their back with a group of Australians? Did they not have an agreement in place with the Berrys while the fundraised? Is this the same group of investors that previously walked away? And the co-op is remaining active in the hopes that the new owners fold within a few years? But the new owners in those few years are going to put a major dent in Sugarloaf?
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,801
    obienick said:

    I don't quite follow.


    You're saying the co-op that was formed to take over Saddleback lost the ski area because the Berrys negotiated behind their back with a group of Australians? Did they not have an agreement in place with the Berrys while the fundraised? Is this the same group of investors that previously walked away? And the co-op is remaining active in the hopes that the new owners fold within a few years? But the new owners in those few years are going to put a major dent in Sugarloaf?
    Ultimately, the Berrys refused to sign even a Letter of Understanding with the Foundation (never a co-op).  That was in part why the foundation suspended fundraising.

    The Aussies have been in-and-out and in-and-out a few times.

    As best as I know, what loafasaur said above is true.
  • mapnutmapnut expert
    edited June 5 Posts: 822

    Saddleback's (the Berries')  Facebook page had a post on October 27, 2016 as follows:

    "Saddlebackers, many of you by now have seen the Saddleback Mountain
    Foundation's announcement of their initiative to raise monies for the
    purchase of the mountain. We wish them well with their efforts. We
    continue to work with the Saddleback Mountain Foundation, in addition to
    the other qualified buyers who are also in the process of pursuing the
    purchase of the resort. When the trail is clear we will update you."

    That's the only post since February 2016.

    Joshua, did you literally mean stakes are in the ground for the Rangeley replacement?

  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,801
    mapnut said:

    Saddleback's (the Berries')  Facebook page had a post on October 27, 2016 as follows:

    "Saddlebackers, many of you by now have seen the Saddleback Mountain
    Foundation's announcement of their initiative to raise monies for the
    purchase of the mountain. We wish them well with their efforts. We
    continue to work with the Saddleback Mountain Foundation, in addition to
    the other qualified buyers who are also in the process of pursuing the
    purchase of the resort. When the trail is clear we will update you."

    That's the only post since February 2016.

    Joshua, did you literally mean stakes are in the ground for the Rangeley replacement?

    There is an FB Saddleback page run by SMF.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/277158955983493/ and as I've said, I am actively associated with the SMF.
  • bubblecufferbubblecuffer advanced
    Posts: 262
    The fact that there are multiple parties interested is a positive sign, but the question remains, is skiing the #1 priority for these potential buyers?   If so, what sort of business plan will bring in people?  

    On a side note, I have always dreamed that a connection between Sugarloaf and Saddleback (Mt Reddington) is not a completely absurd thought.  What a killer ski complex that would be!
  • edited June 6 Posts: 2,007

    The fact that there are multiple parties interested is a positive sign, but the question remains, is skiing the #1 priority for these potential buyers?   If so, what sort of business plan will bring in people?  


    On a side note, I have always dreamed that a connection between Sugarloaf and Saddleback (Mt Reddington) is not a completely absurd thought.  What a killer ski complex that would be!

    That could never happen because of the Appalachian Trail corridor and the naval training facility.
    - Sam
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,801
    It would appear the Aussie gro

    The fact that there are multiple parties interested is a positive sign, but the question remains, is skiing the #1 priority for these potential buyers?   If so, what sort of business plan will bring in people?  


    On a side note, I have always dreamed that a connection between Sugarloaf and Saddleback (Mt Reddington) is not a completely absurd thought.  What a killer ski complex that would be!
    The fact that the Aussies apparently had stakes laid out for the Rangeley replacement is probably a good sign that they want to re-open it as a ski area.  No question the SMF wants to do so.  The SMF business plan has been very clearly laid out. If you're curious,  check the FB page I referenced above.  Nobody (but perhaps the Berrys and the Aussies) know if the Aussies have a business plan or just too much money for their own good.

    And Sam: If you think the biggest issue with connecting Sugarloaf to Saddleback  is the Appalachian Trail, I've got a wall to sell you on the Mexican border!
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    edited June 28 Posts: 1,801
    Well: The good news is that Saddleback will operate.

    The bad news: The Saddleback Mountain Foundation ran the numbers and clearly determined that Saddleback can not be operated as a "for-profit" ski area.  According to reports that I read, Sugarloaf has been barely profitable.

    The new owners have 2-choices:
    - run it as is with some infra-structure improvements
    or
    - rebuild SB as a mini-SL

    In the first case, they can't make a profit and in the 2nd case,  they will go head-to-head with SL as a mini-SL and there are not enough skiers to fill both places.

    I suspect that those who enjoyed the low-key aspects of SB may find themselves going to either Mt. Abram or Black Mtn. of ME rather than returning to SB.

    The good news: the SB Foundation is planning on maintaining their infra-structure, so when the soon-to-be owners flounder in the next 3 to 5 years, the SB Foundation will be positioned to jump in.

    Put simply,  I think the Berrys sold out the Saddleback community,  the Town of Rangeley - and to the extent that the new owners are not from the USA, the Berrys even sold out the country.
  • tededetedede advanced
    Posts: 136
    Sorry, it seems pretty naive to think a community based organization could open a mountain of that size. Even a community of millionaires couldn't keep the Yellowstone Club out of bankruptcy.  Without any sort of written agreement in place with the Berrys, it's seems absurd to me to spend hundreds of thousands on lawyers and website design and simply petulant to then blame this expense on the Berrys.

    It was the Berry's right to sell the place to the highest bidder and locals should be happy that outside money is flowing into that section of Maine.  

    Regarding the SMF running the numbers and determining it could not be run at a profit, seems to me someone else with a bigger checkbook ran the numbers and determined that they could.  Sounds a bit like Crotched.  

    The SMF donors paid their monies and took their chances.  I'm can sympathize with folks that lost money, but to blame the Berrys for selling out the SMF, Rangeley, and the USA is hyperbolic sour grapes.

    Joshua, I've known you for a lot of years, but this statement seems very unlike you: " ...if the Aussies have a business plan or just too much money for their own good.".  Do you truly believe people have too much money for their own good?
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,801
    tedede said:

    Sorry, it seems pretty naive to think a community based organization could open a mountain of that size. Even a community of millionaires couldn't keep the Yellowstone Club out of bankruptcy.  Without any sort of written agreement in place with the Berrys, it's seems absurd to me to spend hundreds of thousands on lawyers and website design and simply petulant to then blame this expense on the Berrys.


    It was the Berry's right to sell the place to the highest bidder and locals should be happy that outside money is flowing into that section of Maine.  

    Regarding the SMF running the numbers and determining it could not be run at a profit, seems to me someone else with a bigger checkbook ran the numbers and determined that they could.  Sounds a bit like Crotched.  

    The SMF donors paid their monies and took their chances.  I'm can sympathize with folks that lost money, but to blame the Berrys for selling out the SMF, Rangeley, and the USA is hyperbolic sour grapes.

    Joshua, I've known you for a lot of years, but this statement seems very unlike you: " ...if the Aussies have a business plan or just too much money for their own good.".  Do you truly believe people have too much money for their own good?
    Ted.  See PM which I sent.

    I've met and discussed SB with each of the last three owners.
    Current owners (Berrys) stand to lose over $30M; 
    Breens (from whom the Berrys bought it) lost between $4 and $8M
    and the Howards (from whom the Breens bought it) lost about $1M.

    All three thought they could make it work.  There is a pretty clear cut pattern which the Foundation analyzed.  Their business model is closer to the MRG model (which is working just fine) - not the Hermitage or the Yellowstone model.
  • newpylongnewpylong expert
    edited June 28 Posts: 562
    Is there another area in operation that large as a non-profit with similar demographics? Do any of the members of the SB Foundation have ski industry management experience?

    It's one thing to be business savvy, but quite another to successfully operate in a niche weather dependant industry. It's much easier to armchair than to execute.

    In my first hand (community operated ski) experience, Saddleback would have a difficult time sustaining itself under such a model for numerous reasons.

    I am happy to see any sale and hope it works out for the area.
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,801
    Is there another area in operation that large as a non-profit?

    Do any of the members of the SB Foundation have ski area management experience?

    It's one thing to be business savvy, but quite another to successfully operate in a niche weather dependant industry. It's much easier to armchair than to execute.

    In my first hand (community operated ski) experience, Saddleback would have a difficult time sustaining itself under such a model for numerous reasons.

    I am happy to see a buyer has been found and hope it works out for the area.
    Is there another area in operation that large as a non-profit?: Yes Mad River Glen
    Do any of the members of the SB Foundation have ski area management experience? Yes.

    While I hope the new ownership will work out, history is not on their side.  Certainly the Berrys discovered that the "build-it-and-they-will-come" philosophy did not pan out.

  • RemskiRemski advanced
    Posts: 362
    All I have to say, it's always better for any ski area to be open than ON THE NELSAP LIST no matter who owns it. Let's look at it that way.
  • bubblecufferbubblecuffer advanced
    Posts: 262
    A strategy of riding the coattails of Sugarloaf may be what they are hoping.  Let's face it, the Loaf is pure awesomeness, at least for a couple days. A quick drive down to Saddleback mixes up the experience nicely.  There are resorts that operate successfully in this manner, Grand Targhee comes to mind.

    That said, that strategy will only work provided the Loaf bumps up their appeal as a year round destination similar to how Jay Peak has successfully done this (sans all the "Q" B.S.).

  • rickbolgerrickbolger expert
    Posts: 1,118
    Sorry to say my rough & rocky road prediction for the non-profit was a bit too accurate.  I think the MRG type setup would've been better in the long run.
  • mapnutmapnut expert
    Posts: 822

    http://www.majellagroup.com/saddlebackmaine/qanda-saddleback-june17.pdf

    Here are the specifics, thanks to Xwhaler at Alpinezone. Plenty of info to chew on.

  • Posts: 967
    This is really exciting! While it's a little sad to bid farewell to a Stadeli chair or a Hall t-bar the new owners are doing the right thing with the lifts. Their concerns about wind holds make sense. They've even considered that running the replacement chair counterclockwise would be in their favour. Never thought that even a t-bar might have that issue but the Hall telescoping masts could be swung about - more so than the more common spring-loaded kind. At least it's a like-for-like surface lift replacement. 

    I'm very positive on the new owner's approach to their investment in the region. Their love for Portland, ME and the Rangely area is evident. I'm so intrigued that I am itching to hop on a plane and visit. Makes me wonder what I've been missing out on.

    IBRAKE
  • mapnutmapnut expert
    Posts: 822
    The trails served by the T-bar are super-nice. At least that's how I remember them.
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,801
    Email from SB today:
    ---
    Dear Saddlebackers,
     
    We're incredibly excited to announce that after nearly a year of negotiations, we've finally come to an agreement to purchase all holdings of Saddleback Mountain Resort, including the resort, base lodge, ski lifts and surrounding timberland, totaling 6,337 acres. The agreements were formally signed just yesterday and the sale will officially close later this summer.  In the interim, our operating agreement allows us to immediately take control of mountain operations and begin the hard work required to get the mountain open again.
     
    We know you're probably wondering who we are and what this means for the future of the mountain. Since you can't hear our accents over email we'll start with the obvious first - we're "from away" - Australia to be exact.
     
    Our company is called the Majella Group, and we're a full-service property company, headquartered in Brisbane, Australia. Back in 2011 my father and I fell in love with Maine and immediately set to work creating a vision for investing in this beautiful area.
     
    A few years later, at the request of retired Maj. Gen. John W. Libby and former Portland Fire Chief and Majella CEO - Western Region Fred LaMontagne, we came back to tour the Western Mountain region and discovered Saddleback and Rangeley. The rest, as they say, is history.  
     
    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. Our hope is to create a premiere four-season resort that leverages all the region has to offer. We are excited to dig in and get to work.
     
    We know you're probably wondering when the mountain is going to re-open - specifically, if it's going to happen this season. After being closed for two seasons we understand just how important this is to you and the community - and it's very important to us as well. However, replacing the Rangeley Chair and T-Bar are at the top of our list, and from Mother Nature's perspective, we are already up against the clock.
     
    You should know we've already engaged Doppelmayr, the world's leading manufacturer of ski lifts, to begin the survey and engineering work to replace the Rangeley Double Chair with a new TRISTAR Fixed Grip Quad Chair Lift that can support 1,500 skiers per hour. The Cupsuptic T-Bar will be replaced with a new Wind Resistant, Higher-Speed Surface Lift that can support 1,200 skiers per hour. When these two lifts are completed, Saddleback will feature one of the newest lift systems in all of New England.
     
    What is still unclear, however, is when the lifts will be ready, which is why an opening schedule has not yet been determined. Our commitment to you is not to over promise, but to move expeditiously and communicate transparently. Please know, as soon as our team believes 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.
     
    Many of you will be pleased to know that long-time Saddleback manager Jim Quimby will once again head up Mountain Operations.  As it has always been, when he says it's good to go - we'll go.
     
    In addition, Rangeley residents Greg Andrews and Perry Williams will complete the management team, along with Majella CEO - Western Region, Fred LaMontagne, who will serve as the resort's Chief Executive Officer and focus on long-range planning and strategic operations. 
     
    We will also begin discussions with other key staff, former and new, to round out a top-notch local and experienced team.
     
    We all understand the important role we have assumed, and the significant work we have in front of us to bring Saddleback back to its rightful place. We so look forward to meeting all of you and welcoming the Saddleback family back home. If you have additional questions, send us a message on our Saddleback website.
     
    From all of us at Saddleback, we look forward to seeing you on the mountain again.
     
    Sincerely,
     
    Sebastian Monsour
    Majella Group CEO
  • bobbuttsbobbutts advanced
    Posts: 102
    Good to hear, but sounds like an uphill battle on several fronts.  I know they try to justify a new surface lift and FG quad, but it seems unrealistic to hope to compete as a destination resort with 0 high speed lifts.  I think in NE Smuggler's Notch is the only other place that attempts that and they have a long history of goodwill, marketing, and off hill activities.
    I love a slow speed lift day here and there, but if I am taking a vacation I pretty much require a mountain that offers high speed lifts.
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    Posts: 1,801

    Statement from Wolfe Tone, Acting Executive Director 
    Saddleback Mountain Foundation

    June 28, 2017

    For Immediate Release

    (Portland, Me.) – The Saddleback Mountain Foundation (SMF) applauds the effort of the future owners of Saddleback Mountain and the Berry family. We wish them the best for this vibrant mountain and are excited for the lifts to be spinning again.

  • pagamonypagamony advanced
    Posts: 127
    It sounds about as good as possible given the last two years.  So does the SMF close down or somehow support?  

    Meanwhile, for myself, I do not consider a high speed lift to necessary for my vacations.  Not sure if I am odd or not.  I can't remember how many skiers they need to be viable but there might be enough of us.  Every resort is different.  I like a region with a few options.  For  me, snow is #1, then terrain, then maybe lifts.  Would you skip a good day at MRG ?  Loveland ?  Saddleback ?  nah.
  • bobbuttsbobbutts advanced
    Posts: 102
    pagamony said:

    It sounds about as good as possible given the last two years.  So does the SMF close down or somehow support?  


    Meanwhile, for myself, I do not consider a high speed lift to necessary for my vacations.  Not sure if I am odd or not.  I can't remember how many skiers they need to be viable but there might be enough of us.  Every resort is different.  I like a region with a few options.  For  me, snow is #1, then terrain, then maybe lifts.  Would you skip a good day at MRG ?  Loveland ?  Saddleback ?  nah.
    No, those places are some of the best for a good day, but if I'm doing a longer trip I want it.  I think the significant % of vacation customers are more concerned about it than I am too.  For me, my daughter goes to Pat's Peak a bunch and has become sensitive to lift speed.  Whenever we go anywhere else her first question is about whether they have at least one fast lift.
  • pagamonypagamony advanced
    Posts: 127
    That's the ticket - never go over to the dark side of the high speed lift !  I think the skier that wants a HS also wants a much bigger (facilities) resort - one good lift won't be enough.  Failing that, I think Saddleback will have to learn to survive in the middle ground.  Tough, but at least these guys seem to have some pockets and a heck of a mountain, if nothing else.  
  • joshua_segaljoshua_segal expert
    edited June 28 Posts: 1,801
    It sounds about as good as possible given the last two years.  So does the SMF close down or somehow support?  

    ...
    As I said in my earlier posting:
    the SB Foundation is planning on maintaining their infra-structure, so when (perhaps, if) the soon-to-be owners flounder in the next 3 to 5 years, the SB Foundation will be positioned to jump in.
  • slathamslatham advanced
    Posts: 152
    I might be reading too much into this but that email from Majella made specific note of "Timberland" when they could have easily said acreage or land or whatever. Can the timberland they refer to actually be harvested?

    I hope this works. I've never skied SB but I'd like to and I just don't like good mountains failing.
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