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Saddleback not opening for February vacation

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RANGELEY – Saddleback Mountain will not be opening for February vacation week this year, with a statement posted to its Facebook page saying that the current owners did not want to pressure a prospective buyer.

The announcement regarding next week’s vacation pushes the resort’s opening date back to mid-February at the earliest. Historically, Saddleback opens on Dec. 19.

“We will not be open for February vacation week,” the statement reads, “and any update on a possible opening date will be posted as we receive the information.”

Saddleback, the third largest ski mountain in the state and an employer for up to 300 people during peak winter season, previously announced that it would be unable to open for ski operations this season unless it secured $3 million in financing to purchase a new four-person chairlift. That lift would replace a 51-year-old double chair that accesses the top of Saddleback Mountain.

A number of buyers opened discussions with the current owners, the Berry family, who purchased the ski area in 2004, leading to a period of rapid growth. In 2004, Saddleback employed 66 people and drew about 15,000 skiers annually. In 2012 the family reported Saddleback employed more than 225 people during peak winter season, and by then they had added $40 million in infrastructure improvements, drawing as many as 100,000 visitors annually.

In early October, Saddleback announced that it was in “serious negotiations” with a potential buyer and hoped to open for the 2015-16 ski season. There were no further updates for more than two months, at which point the management announced that it was eyeing a late-January opening day. On Feb. 8, it announced that Saddleback would not be open for February vacation.

“Saddleback is more than a mountain – it is a community of people,” the statement said. “We are asking for your support as we seek to ensure the long term viability of this community.”

The release added that the Berry family and mountain’s management were grateful to the “condominium owners, season pass holders and local businesses for being so supportive of our position.”

The resort had previously offered three options for season pass-holders, including waiting for opening day and receiving a 50 percent resort credit bonus, converting their pass purchase price into a gift card, or requesting a full refund.

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