Going into the final month of winter, Saddleback Maine remains closed and a spokesman says there is no update on whether the popular ski resort will be open this season.

The Rangeley area ski resort has been using its Facebook page as the only means for communicating updates on the status of the mountain, which did not open for the 2015-2016 winter season after its owners reportedly tried to negotiate a sale with a prospective buyer.

But there has been no new information posted to the page since Feb. 8 when Saddleback announced it would not be open in time for February school vacation week despite an earlier announcement that the resort would open by late January.

On Monday, Saddleback’s manager, Chris Farmer, said there were no new updates on the mountain’s status.

“We would update (Facebook) if there was,” Farmer said, declining to comment on whether the sale remains pending.

Saddleback, which has drawn between 80,000 and 100,000 skiers annually for the last four or five winters, announced in July that it would close operations if it could not secure $3 million to replace an aging chairlift, and the owners, Bill and Irene Berry, were unable to get the financing. Since October, Saddleback’s Facebook updates have been mentioning that the Berry family has been in negotiations with a prospective buyer who intended to open the mountain this winter season.

On top of Saddleback remaining closed, Rangeley’s winter economy is taking a hit because it’s been “a winter without snow,” said Karen Ogulnick, executive director of the Rangeley Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, referring to the mild weather conditions.

Ogulnick said the town’s tourism sector is getting by due in large part to the Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club being able to maintain fair trail conditions despite low levels of snow.

However, Karen said Saddleback’s ability to make snow would have helped draw more people to the region. Saddleback is also the third largest employer in Franklin County during the winter, employing about 350 seasonal workers.

“I think it would’ve been better because we’ve also had some extreme cold and they probably could’ve made snow,” Ogulnick said. “There are a lot of people who are second homeowners (in Rangeley) who ski here. With the lack of snow, there aren’t a whole lot of activities to do, but they’re making the best of it.”

A post on Dec. 18 said the new buyers intended to open the mountain by Jan. 19. That statement was followed by a post on Jan. 8 that stated, “The Saddleback Transaction is still moving forward! The Berrys and the buyer are in agreement on terms and now it’s just down to finishing the complicated paperwork … so we can all get down to important things like working on the hill! Another update next week.”

A post the next week said the deal continued to move forward and that the groomer mechanic had come back to work at the mountain.

However, on Feb. 8, mountain patrons were met with disappointment when the ski area announced it would not be opening for February vacation week. That concerned Rangeley area business owners, since February vacation is typically a week that local hotel and inn owners count on booking up.

The announcement didn’t include a tentative opening date, only that “the Berry family has made the decision not to pressure the buyer but to be supportive of the situation.”

The last eight months of uncertainty have taken a toll on loyal mountain patrons, some of whom have invested upwards of $2,000 in season passes. Saddleback has offered season pass-holders three options: waiting for opening day and receiving a 50 percent resort credit added to their season pass; converting their season pass into a gift card; or returning their season pass for a full refund anytime prior to opening day.

Some Saddleback patrons doubt that the mountain will open at all this season.

“Pretty late in the season at this point,” wrote one user Feb. 16 in a comment to Saddleback’s February Facebook post. “I’d be willing to bet because of the continued delays as well as the poor conditions in general, that (Saddleback) will not open this season … It’s also unfortunate as us, the customers have seemingly been left in the dark through infrequent and hollow promises.”

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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