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Saddleback

kbroderick

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...
The Berry's have always held the line, along with even some of the folks here, that a HSQ would be a mistake, and an expensive one, for a resort like Saddleback. It's been my opinion that an HSQ is vital to resorts. It attracts newbie skiers who don't like getting on fixed grip lifts that need to be bumped by a liftie. That still is my opinion, and I was pleasantly surprised to read that is what Arctaris is doing. How many of us would have the stones to invest 40 million into a ski resort that never topped 100K visits in a season? And that HSQ is what? 8 Million of that total? I believe, that if they are going to succeed, they need that HSQ. Not sure the investment will be justified, but I certainly hope so.

Just for kicks, here is the website to Artaris, showing their portfolio.
https://arctaris.com/portfolio-companies/
I don't see any other ski resorts listed there. How do these folks have any more experience than the fraudster from Australia with ski resorts?
...

The big difference is capitalization. You get to make a lot more learning decisions while running a ski area if you have the capital available to continue operating and deal with unexpected expenses while also pouring some of your money into boondoggles of your choice.

With that said, I'm also curious how the HSQ will work out. Last time I was near-enough a lift-installation decision to hear numbers, the install cost of a HSQ was about twice that of a fixed-grip, but that wasn't the show-stopper: the operational cost is also substantially higher, possibly even double. It's one thing to suck it up and spend a few more million on a capital expenditure to provide a better experience despite a longer ROI; it's another when the increased capital also results in significant increase in daily operating expenses.

With that said, Arctaris seems to have plenty of smart folks involved who know more about the details than anyone posting here, so I hope they're right. I'd love to see Saddleback back up and running as a successful smaller resort, even if it roughly 45 minutes northeast of nowhere.
 

uphillklimber

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The big difference is capitalization. You get to make a lot more learning decisions while running a ski area if you have the capital available to continue operating and deal with unexpected expenses while also pouring some of your money into boondoggles of your choice.

With that said, I'm also curious how the HSQ will work out. Last time I was near-enough a lift-installation decision to hear numbers, the install cost of a HSQ was about twice that of a fixed-grip, but that wasn't the show-stopper: the operational cost is also substantially higher, possibly even double. It's one thing to suck it up and spend a few more million on a capital expenditure to provide a better experience despite a longer ROI; it's another when the increased capital also results in significant increase in daily operating expenses.

With that said, Arctaris seems to have plenty of smart folks involved who know more about the details than anyone posting here, so I hope they're right. I'd love to see Saddleback back up and running as a successful smaller resort, even if it roughly 45 minutes northeast of nowhere.

I hadn't considered the added cost of maintenance of a HSQ. Again, hoping for the best, and certainly, the HSQ id very attractive to newbies.
 

Glade Monkey

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Maine
I hadn't considered the added cost of maintenance of a HSQ. Again, hoping for the best, and certainly, the HSQ id very attractive to newbies.
No idea about costs (initial or ongoing) but the biggest issue I've seen with detachables, especially around New England, is that it takes much longer to get them back online after an icing event.
 

uphillklimber

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No idea about costs (initial or ongoing) but the biggest issue I've seen with detachables, especially around New England, is that it takes much longer to get them back online after an icing event.

That happens when the haul rope ices up. Not so much a problem detaching, but for them to re attach to the icy cable, that's the issue.
 

mister moose

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Last time I was near-enough a lift-installation decision to hear numbers, the install cost of a HSQ was about twice that of a fixed-grip, but that wasn't the show-stopper: the operational cost is also substantially higher, possibly even double. It's one thing to suck it up and spend a few more million on a capital expenditure to provide a better experience despite a longer ROI; it's another when the increased capital also results in significant increase in daily operating expenses.
I hadn't considered the added cost of maintenance of a HSQ. Again, hoping for the best, and certainly, the HSQ id very attractive to newbies.
A HSQ was a major factor in what did in Ascutney, the last few years they didn't run it at all due to the operating expense, they just ran the less expensive fixed grips.

Hopefully that doesn't portend Saddleback's future, but Ascutney had far better proximity, and was just minutes off 91. Less snowfall and vertical, but an established condo village and near Okemo and Killington.

It's a gamble, and hopefully they'll pull the full house from two pair.
 
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A HSQ was a major factor in what did in Ascutney, the last few years they didn't run it at all due to the operating expense, they just ran the less expensive fixed grips.

Hopefully that doesn't portend Saddleback's future, but Ascutney had far better proximity, and was just minutes off 91. Less snowfall and vertical, but an established condo village and near Okemo and Killington.

It's a gamble, and hopefully they'll pull the full house from two pair.

I believe it was the Storm Skiing Podcast with the Liftblog.com founder where I heard recently that HSQs are indeed roughly 2x as expensive to build and run/maintain than FGQs.

I never made it to Ascutney, but my sense is that it suffered from having too many "better" options in close proximity. While certainly a cautionary tale, each situation is unique.

It's impossible to know now, but I think going all in with the detachable is the right move. It will really improve the guest experience for intermediates (better laps on that lift) and experts (improved access to and from the main base). As I've probably mentioned here before, the investment by Arctaris is likely a failure anyway if they can't attract enough people to Saddleback to justify the high speed lift. They must be thinking bigger than that to bother.

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uphillklimber

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I think the biggest advantage that Arctaris has is similar to when the Libra Foundation took over Black Mountain in Maine. They had deep enough pockets that they didn't need to worry about paying mortgages. They could afford to do what would make the resort viable and attract enough skiers.

I certainly am hoping this works out.
 

machski

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That happens when the haul rope ices up. Not so much a problem detaching, but for them to re attach to the icy cable, that's the issue.
Not fully true. An iced haul rope is a problem for both fixed and detach lifts. The issue with detaches is when the friction pad on the grip gets iced. This causes chaos in the terminals as the cadence tires slip rather than push the chair along on the iced friction pad. It is worse if the resort uses non pneumatic tires on the detaches (as Sunday River does).

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x10003q

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To be certain, they made mistakes. Please show me any ski area that has made zero mistakes. Their intentions were always in the right place, if not their choices. At any given time, anyone, even you, could have stepped up, bought the place and showed everyone the proper way to run a ski resort.

It is not a question of making zero mistakes as mistakes happen. It is a question multiple of cascading mistakes. Many major decisions they made were wrong or in the wrong order. Yes, their intentions were in the right spot, but they were long time SB skiers and should have seen what a problem the Rangeley double was going to be. They touched it up when they bought it, but it should have been the first thing replaced. They clearly had the money to replace it.

Here is another major mistake that is never discussed. They wildly overpaid for SB. There are multiple sources that put the price at around $8million. How is that even possible? Did they feel sorry for the previous owner? Maybe the 8000 acres of lumber has value? The ski area had to have negative value based on 15k visits/year, the location, and the old and outdated lifts. So the Berry's first major mistake was what they paid for SB. All these mistakes led them to putting SB on the market only 10 years later. Based on all the wonderful and exciting expansion maps we saw, I doubt that was the plan. The Berry's bought the place to run a small profit, not run a charity.

As far as the deal with the Australian guy who got arrested, initially, everyone was hailing him as the hero, and no one with an internet connection was saying this guy is a fraud. it wasn't until a few months down the road that everything started coming out. Remember, he owned or had interest in a condo on mountain and wanted this resort working???
Sebastian Monsour, the CEO of the Majella Group, made multiple claims about the Majella Group before the deal was announced in June, 2017. None were true. There were tax issues with the 'Majella' project at the Williston-West Church in Portland that his father Frank Monsour purchased in Portland when the deal was announced. This property went into foreclosure Feb, 2019. Sebastian Monsour also claimed to be a leading developer in Brisbane, Australia, yet he could not point to any projects.

I do agree with you about the odd choice to build up the lodge and not replace that fixed grip main lift. Back when I was working Sunday River, in 2015 or so, they had a town hall meeting, explaining the choice of a carpet loader for Spruce Lift, as opposed to a HSD lift. The carpet loader at the time was a couple hundred thousand, while a HSQ was about 5 million, IIRC. (I'll admit I am a little fuzzy on this number, but it was more than a couple million). Pretty easy decision to go with a carpet loader, which, IMO is less than the success they were hoping for. But I digress, just trying to show perspective on pricing of lifts.

The Berry's have always held the line, along with even some of the folks here, that a HSQ would be a mistake, and an expensive one, for a resort like Saddleback. It's been my opinion that an HSQ is vital to resorts. It attracts newbie skiers who don't like getting on fixed grip lifts that need to be bumped by a liftie. That still is my opinion, and I was pleasantly surprised to read that is what Arctaris is doing. How many of us would have the stones to invest 40 million into a ski resort that never topped 100K visits in a season? And that HSQ is what? 8 Million of that total? I believe, that if they are going to succeed, they need that HSQ. Not sure the investment will be justified, but I certainly hope so.

I agree with this. A HSQ is a huge expense and a huge marketing tool. However, if the Berry's put in a cheaper FGQ (nobody would have questioned it) in 2004, they would still be owners of SB today. When you finally get people to drive up to the middle of nowhere and they have to wait on a lift line for the main lift at an empty ski area, they are never coming back.

Just for kicks, here is the website to Artaris, showing their portfolio.
https://arctaris.com/portfolio-companies/
I don't see any other ski resorts listed there. How do these folks have any more experience than the fraudster from Australia with ski resorts? that being said, I do like what they are doing. They hired back a bunch of folks in the industry and who had previously worked at Saddleback. They are actually tossing improvements into the resort. As you suggest, why so much money into the lodge. The Berry's felt this important, as now does Artaris. I felt the lodge just needed some roof repairs, and they stripped it completely, ice and water dammed the whole thing and re-roofed it. Class 1 job, for sure, but did they really need to spend that much? And expanding the lodge, which was recently improved? Did they need to do that? They are doing some of the same things that the Berry's are being criticized for.

Yes, Arctaris is headed down a shaky road with the lodge. I fear SB will suffer the same fate with Arctaris. The number of skiers needed to even break even on the current spending is well beyond any visits in Saddleback's history. There is a reason that Alterra/Vail/Powdr/Peak Resorts/ and any number of smaller skiing companies did not buy Saddleback.
The Arcteris lodge spend does not say much about the Berry's spending if the lodge needs so much work. What exactly did the Berry's get for the $13 million?

I suppose I should have bought the place and showed everyone how to properly run a ski resort, eh? Not happening, from me, you or anyone else on this forum. My hat is off to whoever takes up the mantle of running a ski resort. You know the old joke about ski resorts? How do you end up a millionaire running a ski resort? Start out as a billionaire.
I would guess that most of us would have replaced the Rangely double before spending an outrageous $13 million on the lodge. It does not take a lot of expertise to make that decision.
I'm not ready to canonize the Berry's, despite your suggestion, how about you back off on totally demonizing them a little bit?
My intention was not to demonize the Berry's. By all accounts, they seem to be lovely people. But we cannot ignore what they did at Saddleback. Just a simple reordering of the $40million spend would have had much better results for them and the people of Rangeley. The fact that they needed to sell the place after 10 years (at a laughable ask as they knew the numbers) despite the $40 million they spent is all we need to know.
 

uphillklimber

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x10003q, I appreciate the discourse with you. Many good points.

I do think you are correct, about the first thing that I would have done is change out the old lift. Well, maybe not first, but within a year or two, anyways. It would have been closer to the beginning of the 40 Million spend out.

In the end, it was their money and their choice of what to do with their money. We can all armchair quarterback them to death, but they put their money where their mouth was, and it just didn't work out. I respect that they put their money where their mouth was, something many do not do.

Speaking of money, while they put money into the place, they were selling tickets, and generating some kind of income. They also had operating expenses and wages coming out of that. I'd be interested to know, even roughly, how all of that figures into the financial picture.

I truly hope Artaris goes something like the Libra foundation did for Black Mountain of Maine. Deep enough pockets that they made the best decisions they could without having to cheap out and built a solid base. When you cheap out, you tend to pay for it every year in increased maintenance.

All I know is that I will certainly be checking out the resort this winter. Anxiously awaiting snow all over Maine.
 

mister moose

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I agree with this. A HSQ is a huge expense and a huge marketing tool. However, if the Berry's put in a cheaper FGQ (nobody would have questioned it) in 2004, they would still be owners of SB today. When you finally get people to drive up to the middle of nowhere and they have to wait on a lift line for the main lift at an empty ski area, they are never coming back.

Wait a minute. How do you wait in line at an empty area?????

A fixed grip quad spits out 2,400 skiers in an hour. On any given moment you have something like 300 people on the lift. If it takes 6 minutes average to ski down, you have about 250 people on the trail pod. For a 6 minute line, you have 250 people in line. That's 800 people. plus the other lifts and lodge occupants, call it 1,500 people. That's a tenth of their skier visits and it isn't more than a 6 minute lift line.

Capacity wise, the FG quad would have done fine. You're going for the vibe, the low crowd, the snow, the remote resort. You're not going to turn back because it takes 4-5 minutes less to ride the main lift. "Let's drive for an eternity so we can save 5 minutes for 12 lift rides", said no one ever.
 

uphillklimber

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It's not the waiting in line. it is the s l o w ride up to the top that gets some people. How many have raved about riding the Barker quad (Sunday River) and flying down Right Stuff and getting in 6 laps or more in the first hour?

But more to the point, it is the ease of loading that will attract the newbies to consider this mountain. That is a real selling point with them.

I have skied the Balsams and loved it, except the long ride up the lift, it was so slow... and Big Squaw before it lost the lift to the top[. I learned about Pico with HSQ's for some really nice terrain. While it is not in the middle of nowhere, it's still a long drive, but I love that mountain.

Look at Ragged. It is kinda out in the middle of nowhere, but never a complaint about ride the six pack to the top. I'd do the other lift for a change of pace, but quite frankly, high speed lifts with easy loading are where it is at.
 

mister moose

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All good points. Everything is better except the expense. (and the ice susceptibility)

If you spend 3 million more on the HSQ than the FG, over 30 years at 5% interest that's $386,000 more you have to recover each year. IF you can get 30 year financing, I'd think that doubtful. To pay for that at $80 a ticket you need 4,800 more skier visits. At $60 a ticket you need 6,400 more visits. Plus the added maintenance. That's a fair bit of added skier visits for an area garnering 15,000 visits. If you can only get 15 year financing for a depreciating mechanical asset, double those numbers. Higher cost Venture Capital rates, add more. All this on an unproven track record of being able to deliver sufficient skier visits before the shutdown.

Someone smarter than me has looked at these numbers and made that gamble, so it's now wait and see.

What multiple of 15,000 do you think is Pico's skier visits? Jay has 300,000 visits, and has 1, count em, one HSQ, and a tram. How come the Jet and the Bonnie are still fixed grip?
 

MEtoVTSkier

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When you cheap out, you tend to pay for it every year in increased maintenance.

Probably why the ENTIRE roof was done on the lodge this summer. To NOT do it half-assed, and end up continually fixing prior mistakes.

A lot of old carpenters and roofers always told me, that your roof is about 25% the value of your building. If you've got crap up top, that's all you'll end up with underneath it.
 
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MEtoVTSkier

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Wait a minute. How do you wait in line at an empty area?????

A fixed grip quad spits out 2,400 skiers in an hour. On any given moment you have something like 300 people on the lift. If it takes 6 minutes average to ski down, you have about 250 people on the trail pod. For a 6 minute line, you have 250 people in line. That's 800 people. plus the other lifts and lodge occupants, call it 1,500 people. That's a tenth of their skier visits and it isn't more than a 6 minute lift line.

Capacity wise, the FG quad would have done fine. You're going for the vibe, the low crowd, the snow, the remote resort. You're not going to turn back because it takes 4-5 minutes less to ride the main lift. "Let's drive for an eternity so we can save 5 minutes for 12 lift rides", said no one ever.

I believe x10003q meant standing in line for the double, and that no-one would have questioned a fixed-grip quad install back in 2004.
 

deadheadskier

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The only time I skied Saddleback was the last year of the Kennebago T-Bar. It was a Saturday in February after a rain event. They had one groomed run each off of the two T-Bars, two off the Rangeley and the beginner run down below. Everything else was glazed over from the rain and barely skiable. The line for the Rangeley was 20-30 minutes most of the day. I was quite surprised and thought it was a bad decision when they replaced the Kennebago with a quad the following summer and not the Rangeley.

The only reason I have booked our family ski vacation there for this winter is because they are replacing the Rangeley.

I'm hopeful that the new HSQ investment hasn't taken away from their snowmaking and grooming budget. They need to be able to offer more than five skiable trails midwinter following a rain event if they are going to be successful in syphoning off enough skier visits from Sugarloaf, Shawnee and Sunday River to be a sustainable resort. I think given their terrain, elevation and the four season appeal of Rangeley, they very well could get to 150k+ skier visits (at the expense of mainly Sugarloaf, Sunday River and Shawnee) to make it work.

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x10003q

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x10003q, I appreciate the discourse with you. Many good points.
Thanks, same here.

I do think you are correct, about the first thing that I would have done is change out the old lift. Well, maybe not first, but within a year or two, anyways. It would have been closer to the beginning of the 40 Million spend out.

In the end, it was their money and their choice of what to do with their money. We can all armchair quarterback them to death, but they put their money where their mouth was, and it just didn't work out. I respect that they put their money where their mouth was, something many do not do.

Speaking of money, while they put money into the place, they were selling tickets, and generating some kind of income. They also had operating expenses and wages coming out of that. I'd be interested to know, even roughly, how all of that figures into the financial picture.

This.
Maybe we should have pretended to be Australian developers to get a look at the financials. It worked for S Monsour.:smile:

I truly hope Artaris goes something like the Libra foundation did for Black Mountain of Maine. Deep enough pockets that they made the best decisions they could without having to cheap out and built a solid base. When you cheap out, you tend to pay for it every year in increased maintenance.

All I know is that I will certainly be checking out the resort this winter. Anxiously awaiting snow all over Maine.

I hope Arctaris figures it out. This might be the best season to enjoy SB.
 
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