Oct. 2—SANDY RIVER PLANTATION — Last week, Codie Keene had a very un-Portland problem: How to get a well-drilling rig 3,625 feet up the side of a mountain.
The answer turned out to be very slowly, with the occasional bulldozer tow.
"The cool part was actually on the way down: The entire drill rig they just put in neutral and the dozer was behind it and basically just assisted it down from above," he said.
Keene, director of construction services for Barrett Made Architecture + Construction, headquartered in Portland, has been at Saddleback Mountain for more than a year, first on a base lodge renovation timed to the ski resort's much anticipated reopening last December and now on the new Mid Mountain Lodge set to open this year or next, as soon as they work through logistics like ferrying up supplies and a living roof that's strong enough for soil and snow.
The six-year-old company is what Matthew Ahlberg, vice president and director of design services, describes as the primary collaborator with the mountain's new owners on all of its projects, and there are many.
Barrett Made opened its second office, in Rangeley, in May. Keene and one other southern Maine employee have bought homes there. They've hired seven new people for the new location with plans for up to 10 more over the next year.
The company has 45 employees in Portland, Ahlberg said, and started with a mix of smaller residential, hospitality and commercial projects.
Arctaris Impact Fund bought Saddleback Mountain in early 2020, five years after the state's third-largest ski resort closed abruptly.
Tom Federle, Arctaris Saddleback general counsel and real estate development director, said he knew Barrett Made owner Rob Barrett and invited him to bid on the resort's base lodge project last year.
"In part because I respect his work and his integrity, and in part because I knew he would appreciate what we are doing at Saddleback and would throw all in," Federle said. "He's done that."
On Barrett Made's plate right now:
Building eight A-frames this year and 14 next, part of a new four-acre subdivision.
Building a parking lot this year, and then next year, to go with it, Saddleback House, described in state permit filings as a single-story 24-room ski-in, ski-out dormitory for up to 40 employees.
Building the Mid Mountain Lodge, working with Davies Toews Architecture out of New York City. The 6,000-square foot lodge is estimated in state filings as a $1.3 million project.
Since last year, Arctaris Impact Fund has invested more than $25 million in improvements at the resort.
Asked how much the new lodge, housing and A-frames projects total, Ahlberg said he wasn't aware of a specific number, "but I think there's some pretty ambitious thinking in the works."
Base lodge renovation started in February 2020. Keene said he was surprised at its condition when he first showed up: Merchandise still in the store, skis still in the ski shop.
"It was almost like they turned the lights off one day and left," he said. "The lodge itself is so beautiful your first reaction is, 'I'm so excited to be part of this project and bring it back to life.' You go inside and it's mostly post and beam, a big giant stone fireplace, a lot of exposed wood."
Barrett Made built out space for the third floor restaurant/bar area.
Ahlberg said the thought was to compliment but not replicate the feel that was already there.
"Saddleback has traditionally been sort of a mountain for Mainers and (Arctaris) really liked the concept of continuing the tradition," he said. "We collaborated with a local furniture maker, Square (Manufacturing Co.) — they're based out of Portland and Lewiston/Auburn — who did all custom furnishings for the space. We wanted to work whenever possible, too, with local subcontractors to source material locally."
The A-frame design for the Parmachenee Village project has practical aspects with the snow, Ahlberg said, but the choice there was to go different from other resorts.
"One of the advantages that they have is that it is so relatively undeveloped, so I think their intent is to develop it in the spirit of the mountain and try to make it about the experience of being uniquely at Saddleback," he said. "The A-frames were an extension of that thinking. I think they'll be other projects to follow along that similar vein... There's a lot of possibility up there."
Eleven units are already under contract, Federle said. All 22 are expected to be finished by next fall.
The project's named after the Parmachenee Lake, "a world-renowned fly-fishing destination," according to a resort spokeswoman, and like all of Saddleback's trails and lifts, named with a nod to anglers and Rangeley Lakes Region's fishing history.
With the Mid Mountain Lodge, the look is about blending in to the landscape.
The construction start had to wait until Aug. 1, after the Bicknell's Thrush mating season. Staff have worked with the Maine Audubon Society to be mindful of the bird's habitat.
There are challenges up there each day, Keene said.
"Getting materials up is obviously one of the biggest things," he said. "They did build a roadway to the top last year, when they were installing the Rangeley lift, but it's very much an off-road roadway. Trucks can get up but only of a certain size, so some of the logistical concerns are getting steel for the structure up there."
The build shut down on Monday due to rain. And soon enough, there's snow, which could mean using snowmobiles, snowcats and giant sleds.
"There's going to be a green roof on the top of the building and it's going to be planted with all-natural plants that you would have at that elevation, but with that brings its own set of challenges: the weight of the soil and the snow load up there," Keene said. "Structural engineers have been working tirelessly to develop all those connection details."
"Everything's a challenge," he added. "But it's extremely fun to try to put the pieces of the puzzle together."