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December 2, 2020

With $1.3M donation, Saddleback launches philanthropic campaign

COURTESY / SADDLEBACK Saddleback Mountain set up a partnership with the St. Paul, Minn.-based Venn Foundation to raise money for additional upgrades. The ski resort’s operations team is seen here removing the last tower from a Sandy double chairlift installed in the 1960s.

Saddleback Mountain, which is set to reopen after five years under new ownership, received a key donation to its fundraising campaign.

The effort was jumpstarted by a donor pledge of $1.3 million from New York City-based PARC Foundation. 

Saddleback said Tuesday it will work with the St. Paul, Minn.-based Venn Foundation to launch a new phase of its fundraising. 

The fund will be used to create a Program-Related Investment, a philanthropic tool used to provide below-market capital to projects that advance IRS-defined charitable purposes. In this case, it will be structured as an unsecured loan that is entirely forgivable based on the achievement of certain milestones, including the opening of a new mid-mountain lodge at the top of the Rangeley lift as well as the running of the resort, ski school and race program each year for the next six years, Saddleback said. 

Saddleback said in a news release that the PARC Foundation was “inspired by the rapid progress on re-opening Saddleback Mountain with its much-anticipated, new high-speed detachable quad” chairlift. 

Saddleback Mountain is set to reopen this month after five years of being dormant. It was acquired in January by Boston-based Arctaris Impact Fund LP.

Early in the acquisition process, Saddleback created the Saddleback Mountain Foundation, which played a significant role in helping Arctaris acquire and upgrade the resort with a refundable grant of $2.5 million raised from community members, who were keen not only to restore the resort but to restore the economic engine that came with it. 
“This is about more than opening a mountain,” said Jonathan Tower, managing partner and co-founder of Arctaris Impact Fund. “This is about restoring 200-plus jobs to the community; it’s about the regional economic impact of Saddleback; and it’s about the health and wellness benefits of an operational mountain. Saddleback is part of the region’s proud identity and excitement about its reopening is palpable. As a major employer in the region, we have pledged to work with the community on a number of initiatives addressing issues that inhibit rural economic development. We believe that Rangeley and the region can thrive and we are honored to be a part of it all.”

Saddleback closed in 2015, unable to find a buyer and struggling with aging infrastructure, including older chairlifts and a lodge that lacked needed capacity.

Led by Arctaris, the $38 million investment in the resort relies on a range of public and private funding, including bank financing, state and federal grants and loans, loan guarantees from the Finance Authority of Maine, New Markets Tax Credits, philanthropy and community support. 
Saddleback is expected to create 200 or more jobs, but aspects like a new lodge and the operation of ski schools and the racing program will depend on raising more money. 
With the new arrangement with the Venn Foundation, Saddleback will seek support from individuals, businesses, foundations, donor-advised funds, and nonprofits. 

 “Driving catalytic, concessionary capital to impactful projects like Saddleback Mountain is exactly why Venn Foundation exists,” said Jeff Ochs, CEO of Venn Foundation. “We are grateful for the opportunity to help the entire Saddleback community deploy charitable capital toward achieving this powerful vision.”

Saddleback General Manager Andy Shepard said the resort is expected to reopen mid-month. 

“Over the past five years, the Rangeley and Oquossoc communities have shown a remarkable resilience,” said Andy Shepard, General Manager at Saddleback. “Raising the towers on the new detachable quad, which brought hundreds of spectators from all over, inspired our donor base and also sent a clear and exciting message to the Saddleback family that even in the midst of the COVID crisis, the mountain is determined to open as scheduled on Dec. 15.”

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