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August 3, 2021

Saddleback plans bird protections with development of new lodge

people in woods Courtesy / Saddleback Mountain Crews work on clearing trees for construction of Saddleback Mountain’s new Mid Mountain Lodge.

With its latest building project, Saddleback Mountain has birds on the brain.

The recently redeveloped Rangeley ski resort this week broke ground on Mid Mountain Lodge, which is sited in a habitat for a rare bird species, Bicknell’s thrush. Mating season for the bird is from May through July, so Saddleback had delayed construction until August.

The timetable calls for the lodge to be enclosed by October and to then shift the focus to completing the interior of the building. 

Saddleback collaborated with the Maine Audubon Society to pay close attention to the needs of the bird’s habitat as plans were being developed, the resort said in a news release. Bicknell's thrush inhabits northern New England, upstate New York and parts of Canada, and is the only bird whose breeding range is restricted to the northeastern part of the continent.

The building itself will include bird-safe features.

“The lodge will be built on pedestals, so we have minimal disruption of the watershed,” Andy Shepard, the resort’s general manager, said in the release. “The glass will be designed to minimize bird strikes. And the roof will be an undulation sod roof with native berries and grasses.”

Windows will be strategically placed to encompass views to the west over the Rangeley Lakes Region, in order to make the structure appear to be a more natural feature from the vantage points along the Appalachian Trial.

Plans are also in the works to partner with the James Beard award-winning owners of Portland restaurants Eventide, Hugo’s and Honey Paw on the design of a kitchen, menu and food and beverage business model for the lodge.

The project, which is targeted for completion this winter, is the latest in Saddleback’s redevelopment.

Other investments include three new lifts, two new environmentally friendly eco-diesel groomers, nearly $2 million in snowmaking upgrades, new single-track mountain bike trails and a seven-megawatt solar farm.

The 6,400-acre resort closed in 2015. It was acquired in early 2020 by Arctaris Impact Fund, a Boston-based impact investment fund manager, which has since invested more than $26 million in revitalizing the resort.

Saddleback reopened for skiing last December.

Founded in 1960, Saddleback is Maine’s third largest ski resort after Sunday River and Sugarloaf.

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