More coverage: Saddleback supporters lay out plans to revive ski area

PORTLAND — Steve Philbrick, owner of Bald Mountain Camps in Rangeley, said that when the Saddleback Mountain ski resort closed, it was “devastating.”

Franklin County and the Rangeley region lost between $15 million and $20 million in annual revenue, he said.

Saddleback’s contribution to Franklin County and Maine is “immeasurable,” said Philbrick, one of the speakers at Thursday’s news conference announcing a new group working to reopen Saddleback.

The financial impact of the ski resort’s closing was felt in restaurants, retail shops, inns and motels in Rangeley — but also in Farmington, Wilton, Jay, Portland, Lewiston-Auburn, “everywhere people traveled to get to northern Franklin County,” Philbrick said.

At one point Saddleback was the second-largest employer in Franklin County. Seasonal jobs at the mountain created summer workers for Rangeley, Philbrick said. For the first time this summer, Rangeley restaurants could not stay open seven days a week because they couldn’t find enough workers.

The Rangeley region has a long tradition of being a four-season travel and tourism destination. In the winter the big draws are skiing and snowmobiling. Philbrick said Rangeley has a large network of quality trails, and called Rangeley the leader in the snowmobile industry in Maine.

No downhill skiing hurts snowmobiling, he said.

“Snowmobilers like to ski,” he said. “I’m one of them. Some skiers like to snowmobile. I’m one of them.”

When downhill skiing is removed from the winter offerings, “our winter season is down a third to half of the normal business,” Philbrick said. “Rangeley suffers.”

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