The Saddleback Mountain ski resort outside Rangeley is being sold after not running for the last two winters, and officials plan to release more information about the sale Wednesday.

In a news release Tuesday afternoon, a public relations firm representing the resort said a “historic deal” had been struck for the future of Maine’s third-largest ski area, but provided no additional details.

The release, sent by the Ethos marketing firm in Westbrook, said a news conference will be held Wednesday morning at the Saddleback Maine Lodge, attended by the resort’s sellers, Bill and Irene Berry, the future owners of the resort and representatives from Maine’s congressional delegation.

Organizers of a partnership of nonprofits have been attempting since the fall to raise $4 million toward the purchase of Saddleback Mountain, including a down payment. The group, called the Saddleback Mountain Foundation, said the fundraising was the first step in a vision to make the ski area community-owned.

The foundation, which was formed in 2016 by Rangeley businesses and season pass holders after Saddleback sat idle the previous winter, has been aiming to purchase the mountain’s 723-acre core ski area for about $6 million.

Betta Stothart, senior public relations advisor at the Ethos firm, declined Tuesday to identify the buyer of the resort, saying all details will be released at the news conference.

At a community meeting in November, foundation officials said they had reached an oral agreement with the Berrys to purchase the core ski area, but that exclusivity would not be gained until a $500,000 deposit was made.

Those who have contributed to the capital campaign will receive lifetime memberships at the mountain.

In 2003, the Berrys bought Saddleback and 8,000 acres surrounding it. Over the course of their ownership, they invested $40 million in improvements.

In July 2015, the Berrys announced that they would not open for the winter season unless they secured $3 million for a new chairlift. In the fall of 2015, they announced that they were in negotiations with a buyer, but a sale was not successful and the mountain has since sat idle.

Peter Stein, president and chairman of the Board of the Saddleback Mountain Foundation, posted a message on the group’s Facebook page June 20 addressing rumors that the sale was “a done deal” and speculation the mountain “has been sold to a foreign investment group with big plans.”

“Our plan to own and run Saddleback as a non-profit ski area and implement PEACE is well vetted and exciting,” Stein wrote. “We need $12 million total to fully enable this plan for success, and we know where we need to go to raise the cash once we have a signed agreement with the current owners.”

But, Stein’s post continued, “we have everything we need for success except that signed agreement. We have been here before with rumors the mountain has sold. We shall see. But if and when we get the opportunity, the Saddleback Mountain Foundation stands ready to Rock and Roll.”

After not operating for the past two winters, the Saddleback ski area outside Rangeley is expected to finally be sold, but not to the local group that has been working for more than a year to buy Maine’s third-largest ski resort.

The buyer will be announced Wednesday at a news conference held by the ski area’s owners, Bill and Irene Berry, who called the prospective sale a “historic deal.”

The Saddleback Mountain Foundation, a consortium of local business owners, nonprofits, and season-pass holders that has been working to raise money to buy the resort, will be at the news conference to learn about the new buyer, said Wolfe Tone, the foundation’s acting executive director.

“We are going to assemble tomorrow as a group. We want to listen to their plan and learn more about it,” Tone said after confirming that the foundation is not the potential buyer.

The Berrys plan a news conference at the Saddleback ski lodge at 10 a.m. Wednesday to introduce the new owners along with representatives from the offices of Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and Rep. Bruce Poliquin.

The Berry family announced the ski area would go up for sale on July 20, 2015, unless they could secure $3 million in financing for a new chairlift. When they failed to raise the money, the mountain stayed closed for the past two ski seasons while the family pursued a buyer.

The ski area drew between 80,000 and 100,000 skiers in the seasons before it closed and employed 350 people, making it the third-largest employer in Franklin County, the Berrys reported in 2016.

The Berrys have owned Saddleback since 2003 and in the past 15 years have invested $40 million in improvements, including a new base lodge, two quad chairlifts, new trails and improved snowmaking.

Three times in the past two years, the ski area announced on Facebook a possible buyer, but none of the deals ever materialized.

In October, the Saddleback Mountain Foundation announced at a Portland news conference that a verbal agreement had been reached with Irene and Bill Berry to buy the core ski area for $6 million. At the same news conference, Tone said the Trust for Public Land and the New England Forestry Foundation had reached an agreement with the Berrys to purchase another 3,249 acres around the ski area for an undetermined sale price to preserve as conservation land.

Stephen Philbrick, a member of the foundation and the owner of Bald Mountain Camps in Oquossoc, then reported that the Rangeley region lost as much as $17 to $20 million in revenue because Saddleback sat idle the winter of 2015-2016.

Many season-pass holders were thrilled to learn Tuesday that someone is buying the resort. Even some who have worked with the Saddleback Mountain Foundation said they are happy with any buyer – long as Saddleback opens this winter.

Jamie Wright, owner of Gorham Bike and Ski, held an event for the foundation at his store to help get the word out about the foundation’s effort to buy the ski area. When 50 people showed up, Wright was delighted.

But now he’s delighted there is an announcement of any buyer.

“I”m very excited about a new owner even if it means it’s not the Saddleback Mountain Foundation. I also bought into the foundation and hope I get my money back,” said Wright, who owns a condo on the mountain.

Saddleback skier Gary Small of Freeport said he helped the foundation in its effort, but is thrilled at the news that the mountain might open.

“There are so many rumors. Really, nobody knows anything until we know (Wednesday),” Small said. “I’m happy to have the mountain open under any condition. I think most people who are part (of the foundation) are. The main thing we want is a sustainable owner who is not just going to parcel out the property.”

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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