Ski area projects late January opening, pending sale.
Friday, December 18, 2015, NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com
In a Friday afternoon web posting, Saddleback offered its first update since October.
"Our prospective new owner and the Berry Family feel confident that we will complete a transaction - opening by late January. December 19th marks the traditional opening day for Saddleback, in lieu of the fact that we will not be operating on that date, we are offering passholders three options
"1. WAIT FOR A SNOWY OPENING DAY: By waiting for opening day, you will receive an additional 50% resort credit bonus added to your season pass that can be used anywhere in the resort: food, tickets, lessons, rentals, seasonal locker rentals, future season or day passes etc. This may be used this year or next.
"2. CONVERT YOUR SEASON PASS INTO A GIFT CARD: The amount of your pass purchase will be placed on a gift card and by waiting for opening day you will receive an additional 50% resort credit bonus that can be used anywhere in the resort: food, tickets, lessons, rentals, seasonal locker rentals, future season or day passes etc. This may be used this year or next. With the abbreviated season this may give you more flexibility.
"3. RECEIVE FULL REFUND: Receive a Full Refund of your season pass."
The refund offer comes on the heels of increased press coverage of concerned season passholders. Other Maine areas, such as Shawnee Peak, Sugarloaf, and Sunday River, have extended discount offers to Saddleback passholders during this period.
A check of state and county records on December 18 indicated that the lifts have still not been inspected or certified for the 2015-16 season, nor has a property transfer taken place.
The latest Saddleback saga started on July 20, 2015, when the Berry family announced they had two weeks to place an order for a replacement for the Rangeley double chairlift, or else it would close the ski area. The family was unable to obtain financing.
Heirs to a large insurance company, Bill and Irene Berry purchased the Rangeley ski area and thousands of acres surrounding it for a reported $8 million in 2003, following an announcement from prior owner Donald Breen that it would close. Two new quad chairlifts were installed in subsequent years in conjunction with a major base lodge expansion. The Oquossoc Cove Marina was added to the fold in 2009.
After obtaining is B.S. in civil engineering from Lehigh University in 1955, M.S.T. in biology-geology from Colby College in 1966, and Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Kansas in 1970, Archie "Bill" Berry Jr. joined the faculty of the University of Maine at Farmington. A longtime Saddleback skier, Berry purchased a condo near the ski area in the early 1990s and retired from UMF in 1996. Berry's son Mark worked at Sugarloaf and ran Titcomb Mountain ski area (to which Bill Berry made significant contributions).
In 1971, the U.S. Investment Corporation was founded, which would include Mount Vernon Fire Insurance Company and US Underwriters Insurance Company. On August 8, 2000, Berkshire Hathaway acquired the U.S. Investment Corporation for an estimated $160 million in stock, mainly transferred to the extended Berry family.
On July 28, 2003, Saddleback, Inc. and Saddleback Land & Timber Corp. were incorporated in the State of Maine. Bill Berry, his wife Irene Berry, and their seven children soon took ownership of the 8,000 acre Saddleback tract via their corporations.
Since 2005, Saddleback has entered into multi-million dollar financing agreements with UnitedKinfield Bank, Camden National Bank, Skowhegan Savings Bank (via Finance Authority of Maine), and Coastal Enterprises Inc.
The Berry family placed the ski area on the market in 2012.
In recent years, members of the Berry family have loaned money to both corporations.
In May 2014, the Berrys sold 1,750 acres of land to generate funds.