Writing my final ski column of the year, just like taking my last run, cleaning out my locker, and wishing my skiing buddies a great summer, is always bittersweet.

Writing this column reminds me of the fun my son Josh and I have had since November, sharing our thoughts about our favorite winter pastime. And this winter we even had the fun of skiing and exploring together.

I was reminded on a recent bluebird day as I chased him down the Sluice headwall at Sugarloaf of a line my friend, Warren Miller, used while narrating one of his classic ski movies: “One day your children will ski as well as you do … the next day they’ll ski better.” And I had the parental pleasure of showing Josh, for the first time, the nooks, crannies, and still-secret stashes of Mount Snow in Vermont, where I had worked over 40 years ago.

We’re both very pleased that starting the end of this month we’ll be contributing stories to this paper about our summertime adventures.

My skiing friends ask me what I do in the summer for fun, and I tell them that winter’s a piece of cake because I don’t have any decisions to make: I’ll go skiing.

But beautiful summer days taunt me with the need to decide: Hike? Kayak? Canoe? Fish? Bike? Motorcycle? And that’s the beauty of living in Maine, isn’t it? There’s so much to do, and it’s going to be fun, once again, for Josh and me to share our diversions with you.

One of the best things about the last few weeks of this ski season is how unexpectedly good the conditions have been here in Maine at Saddleback, Sunday River and Sugarloaf. A month ago, those days of 80-degree weather had most of us convinced that we’d be lucky to ski into April. And here it is April 15, and I expect to be skiing top to bottom at Sugarloaf today. Now there’s every indication that we may be able to squeeze another week out of this fickle ski season.

Then it’s, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, tearful farewells to many of my friends who I won’t see again for another seven months. And the fervent hope that every one us will be back on the trails, in good health, next season.

One thing I won’t have to do in the summer is leave home at 5:30 a.m. Sunday to get First Tracks, as the roads, rivers, bays, lakes and trails that beckon don’t have any operating hours … although I must admit there’s nothing like sunrise on Borestone Mountain or Penobscot Bay to inspire me to leave home in the dark.

Putting ski gear away is an increasingly meaningful rite of passage for me, as it gives me the chance to spend some time reflecting on the great times last ski season and to dream about how much fun it’s going to be to strap ’em on again.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a wonderful note I had from Eric Friedman at Mad River Glen in Vermont regarding a comment I made in this space two weeks ago about the important role snow-making played this past winter in a ski area’s ability to provide decent skiing, and the fact that Mad River Glen had suffered from having made only a minimal commitment to that technology. One reason I mentioned it was because the place is such a favorite and offers a skiing experience that transports many of us older skiers back to a time when we were falling in love with the sport.

Eric wrote: “Nice to see Mad River Glen’s name in the Press Herald. I just want you to be aware that while we did certainly have a tough season here for sure there was one significant upside to it. That being it proves the sustainability of the co-op model for Mad River Glen. We had 70 days of skiing this year and we budget for 100 to 110. And while we’re going to lose some money this year, it’s a very reasonable amount … in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $75,000. Cash-flow-wise, we should be able to get through the summer without any trouble. We have no debt at all and we don’t foresee having to tap into our line of credit anytime soon. To have that result in a season like this … and still have no debt … shows that this model works. Over the 16 years that the co-op has been in existence this will only be the third year we’ve ended in the red. I would bet that there are a ton of ski areas in New England these days that can’t say that. Mad River Glen continues to thrive by staying true to its core values and sustainable (an often overused phrase these days) business model. And who’d want to ski on fake snow anyway? 🙂 Just wanted you to be aware. Thanks again for including us, enjoy your summer and then, PLEASE THINK SNOW!!!”

What good news from our friends in Vermont. To learn more about Mad River Glen, and especially their unique co-op business model, go to www.madriverglen.com.

See you next winter.

John Christie is a former ski racer and ski area manager and owner, a ski historian and member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. He and his son, Josh, write ski columns on alternating weeks. John can be reached at: [email protected]