Stephanie Dellavalle sigpic

Dozens of folks from the Rangeley community as well as representatives of state and federal legislators, the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME), and area business owners, joined with Saddleback staff on Friday, November 17th for the celebratory ribbon-cutting and group tours of the long-awaited Saddleback House project.

For years the struggle for affordable staff housing has been a source of discontent for both employers and employees both on and off the mountain.  However, this winter promises to be a season of content.

Although Andy Shepard stepped down from most of his official duties as chief executive officer and general manager of Saddleback several years ago, he has still had a hand in several community-based projects. The

Saddleback Housing

New housing was built for staff at Saddleback Mountain to help alleviate the workforce housing shortage in the region.

Saddleback House staff housing project was one he was happy to reflect on and was delighted to see come to fruition.

Saddleback Mountain

Saddleback House, built to accommodate employees, can house between 60 to 70 people and will feature ski-in, ski-out access.

Shepard, “When Arctaris Impact Fund came in and said that we want to get Saddleback back on its feet again, what’s important to understand is that that was not about getting another ski area open. It was about leaning into reestablishing the region’s largest employer, knowing that that was going to be more than putting lifts on the mountain, snow making on the mountain. That it was about leaning into solving the challenges that this community and a lot of rural communities like this face.”

Andy Shepard addresses the media and the crowd that gathered in the new Saddleback House common room. Stephanie Dellavalle

He went on to say that housing was just one important element of growing, keeping, and maintaining a strong and healthy workforce, and that access to quality health and wellness care as well as childcare were also important elements.


Saddleback Mountian

New housing was built for staff at Saddleback Mountain to help alleviate the workforce housing shortage in the region.

Shepard, “And what’s it going to take to reestablish a workforce in this region? Well, people want to have a place that they can stay, and that is a challenge for us and most other rural communities around the country. They’re going to want to have access to quality health and wellness care. We have a great little facility here, but it’s too small to meet the needs of the community. What can we do to create a new model for rural health care? And we’re also working to build a childcare center. Now those last two initiatives are ones that we’re helping to engage in, but we’re not taking the leadership role on funding. This one (referring to housing), Arctaris has taken the lead role. And to me, what this represents is the continuation of the fact that we’re doing all the things that we said we were going to do at this mountain.”

Shepard also emphasized the crucial relationship between positive impact and Saddleback success.

Shepard, “I’m really proud to have been involved with the mountain and with Arctaris Impact Fund. It cares about those things. It’s not just about the bottom line for this mountain. It’s about impact. And let’s be honest about this, none of this stuff works if this mountain isn’t financially successful. So, we need to make sure we lean into that, but that alone is not enough.”

Following Shepard’s introductory words, Jonathan Tower, Managing Director of Arctaris Impact Fund took the opportunity to give thanks.

Susan and Fritz Onion Stephanie Dellavalle

He started off by thanking Farmington residents Susan and Fritz Onion of the Onion Foundation, philanthropists, and Saddleback supporters, who were monumentally instrumental, and generously contributed to the funding of the project from start to finish.

In addition, Tower thanked the 130 folks that added extra donations earmarked for this project when purchasing their season passes.


Tower, “Clearly the Saddleback community, the people who ski here, care about the people who work here, and that’s one of the things that makes Saddleback really special.”

Valuable members of the Saddleback staff Juno Knox and Levi Washburn help give tours in the new building. Stephanie Dellavalle

Thanks and appreciation were also given to the hardworking Saddleback team and the partnering organizations and government officials, some of whom had representatives on hand.

Tower shared that acquiring the resources for this project was difficult because it was so unique and the numbers were higher than banks, especially rural lending institutions, were used to.

Tower, “Thankfully, 15% of the project was covered by grants, 85% was covered by corporate equity. We actually went to 15 banks in the local region, Maine banks. Not one of them would do a loan on this project. And that kind of reflects what some of the issues are here. A seasonal workforce housing project doesn’t fit into any buckets cleanly. There’s no bank department that does one month or 180-day lease apartment rentals. You don’t really see these kinds of opportunities being covered by federal programs either.”

Tower expressed his appreciation for collaboration.

“I think this is a reflection of some things that we can do together as stakeholders where government and foundations and banks and employers and landowners can work together to try to solve some of these kinds of deeper seeded issues in a collaborative way.”


Tower also took the time to expound upon three of the challenges projects such as these face.

Tower, “When you think about why it is hard to get a mortgage on a property like this, number one, leases are short term in nature and employee rents are capped at 30% of income and that’s a great thing for our company, that’s a great thing for our employees. A bank looks at that and they say, well, that’s kind of fragile to lend in to. If you’re doing the right thing, it’s harder to underwrite that type of project.”

The second challenge he mentioned concerned the remote western Maine location, stating that the remoteness while attractive for many reasons was too great a distance from the larger financial institutions that might be more capable of the requirements of such long-term and unique endeavors.

His last remark dealt with the bank’s point of view.

From left: Jim Quimby, Susan and Fritz Onion, Amber Grey, Jonathan Tower and P.J. McSparren Stephanie Dellavalle

Tower, “The third piece is that the housing demand is largely tied to the success of a ski mountain. And you know we’re all in, we’re totally committed to this mountain. We believe in this mountain functioning for decades and decades into the future, but the bank looks at this and they say that Saddleback House is dependent on the success of the mountain in order to be successful here. So, we want to make sure, they don’t look at it as a downtown Portland apartment building, where you can have people from a lot of different employers working there.”

He also commented on the relationship between these types of projects and their effects on the town of Rangeley.


Tower, “So with banks, state, federal government agencies, landowners, homeowners, and seasonal businesses, we want people to work together too. These kinds of policies and strategies that balance the needs of all people in the community, and I think one of the key advantages of doing something like this is it also takes pressure off the town and the region for the year-round residents. Anyone who lives here year-round, if you’re a landowner, you’re happy because your property prices have probably doubled in the last five years. But if you’re looking to buy a home, it could be pretty cost prohibitive. So, all of this activity it has actions and reactions that I think we need to be respectful of.”

Stephanie Dellavalle

Tower concluded by taking the opportunity to shed light on another source of Saddleback pride.

Tower, “Lastly, I just wanted to mention one other thing we said we would do, that took a long time, but it finally got done, Saddleback Solar went online officially yesterday, so this is a 7 MW solar line. You can’t see it, but it’s huge. It generates twice the electricity that the mountain uses each year. So we can say it’s kind of carbon negative because we’re making more electricity than we use here. That’s a really important project. Saddleback partnered with Nexamp on that project. Tom Federle was really a king orchestrator in the middle of that project as well and we’re really happy that we’re actually using clean energy now. So, this has happened and so with that, congratulations! Congratulations to the Saddleback community. All of you are members of that community.”

Shepard continued by offering some specific details of the Saddleback House.

Large communal kitchen facility at Saddleback House.

Shepard, “This will be able to support up to 80 people. I think we’re going to open with somewhere around 57 pillows but can accommodate up to 80. As Jonathan (Tower) mentioned, capping the rent at 30% of gross wages is a really important step for us to be able make this as accessible to people in this community as possible. And the other thing I want to reiterate is that this is at Saddleback, but this is not intended to just support Saddleback. The idea is that, yes, the majority of the people will probably be working up here in the wintertime, but in the summer time, they’re an awful lot of employees and businesses downtown that will be living up here if we do this right. And that is our commitment to the community.”

Shepard then went on to present a plaque to Susan and Fritz Onion that will be placed in the building that reads:



From the time Squire Rangeley’s kindness and generosity helped fuel the creation of our remarkable community, generous people of vision have found ways to move mountains and our region continues to be better for it.

The Saddleback Family and the region’s business community would like to thank Susan and Fritz Onion for their inspiring and generous support of affordable, quality workforce housing. This facility, with a focus on energy efficiency, and providing a high quality-of-life for residents with a passion for outdoor adventure, will allow us to attract and retain a quality workforce for generations. It will also serve as a statement of Saddleback’s commitment to working closely with the community to help solve some of the systemic challenges of working and living in a rural community.

November 17, 2023”

Fritz and Susan Onion graciously accepted their honor, shared some of their fond memories of Rangeley in both winter and summer, and expressed their happiness and well wishes for Saddleback House and the Rangeley community.


Members of Morton & Furbish Vacation rentals team with Molly Shaw midtour and for some reason laughing at me! Stephanie Dellavalle

Comments are not available on this story.