An Australian company is buying the family-owned Saddleback Mountain ski area that has been shuttered for the last two winter seasons, giving the mountain's loyal skiers something to cheer.
The reopening date is contingent upon how quickly Majella Group can install a modern quad-chairlift to replace an aging double-chair lift, and the company was making no promises that'll be completed by this fall, said Fred LaMontagne, who's managing the transition.
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"We recognize the challenges that are in front of us," LaMontagne said Wednesday. "Our focus is getting skiers back on the mountain. We'll keep everybody apprised."
Majella Group CEO Sebastian Monsour and Saddleback owners Bill and Irene Berry made the announcement Wednesday. They expect to close later this summer on the deal that includes the resort, base lodge, ski lifts and more than 6,000 acres of timberland. Terms were not disclosed.
It's been a long, frustrating wait for skiers since the Berry family announced in July 2015 that the resort would not reopen without $3 million to replace the aging Rangeley Double Chairlift.
The ski mountain been dormant since then, and there have been few updates.
Ron Jacques, who owns a ski shop in Jay, said he's looking forward to getting back on the mountain — and seeing Saddleback skiers return to his shop.
Saddleback is the Maine's third-largest ski resort, behind Sunday River and Sugarloaf. It boasts an old-school vibe with big mountain skiing.
"It's a great place to ski," Jacques said. "I'd have to say that it's one of the most scenic mountains to ski. The views are incredible."
Monsour, who's from Brisbane, Australia, became captivated with the beauty of the Rangeley Lakes region after discovering the state in 2011.
His company has been doing research on the deal for a year, and it's already reached out to Austrian-Swiss company Doppelmayr to get started on planning for the new quad chairlift. Officials hope to begin construction this summer.
As months turned into years, a coalition of local businesses and ski enthusiasts created the Saddleback Mountain Foundation with a goal of reopening the ski mountain.
The Saddleback Mountain Foundation wished the new owners well and announced it was returning donations. "We wish them the best for this vibrant mountain and are excited for the lifts to be spinning again," said Wolfe tone, the foundation's acting executive director.