John Christie, a legendary ski racer, former general manager of Sugarloaf and member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame, died of an apparent heart attack Saturday at Camden Hills State Park, where he had worked for several years. He was 79.

Christie was an author, a regular outdoors columnist for the Maine Sunday Telegram, and a leading authority on Maine skiing and the ski industry.

He was remembered this week as an outgoing, energetic presence, a great story teller and a leading figure in the New England ski industry.

Ethan Austin, director of marketing at Sugarloaf, said Monday that Christie had a positive impact on those who crossed his path.

“He was an incredible guy,” Austin said. “He was without a doubt the best storyteller I’ve ever met in my life. He could command a room really well and leave everyone in stitches. … He was a legend. It won’t be quite the same without him around.”

A lifelong alpine enthusiast, Christie grew up in Camden and learned to ski at the Camden Snow Bowl. He lived in the shadow of Mount Battie and pursued his love of the mountains by hiking the area’s many trails.

According to a biography posted on the Ski Museum of Maine’s website, Christie became a competitive skier at Bowdoin College, where he won the State Intercollegiate Downhill Championship in 1958. He graduated in 1959 and spent the next two years on a fellowship at the University of Stockholm in Sweden studying and skiing.

He returned to Maine to race at Sugarloaf and joined its ski patrol. In 1965, he was named general manager at Sugarloaf. As manager, Christie served as president of the Maine Ski Council, the Sugarloaf Ski Club and the Ski Maine Association.

In 1968, Christie was lured to Vermont to take over as vice president and general manager of Mount Snow Development Corporation. He was elected president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association in 1970 and director of the National Ski Areas Association in 1971.

TRUE BLUE – Locker Room Gang from Sugarloaf on Vimeo.

A year later, he moved back to Maine and bought Saddleback Mountain. He sold the mountain in 1976 and retired from the business and sport.

In the early 1990s, Christie hit the slopes again when his twin sons, Josh and Jake, learned to ski.

Jake Christie reminisced Monday about his early years, saying his family never took vacations to Disneyland. They went hiking, skiing and camping throughout Maine. “He loved the natural beauty of the state,” his son said. “He loved the fact that you get out of it what you bring to it. He loved being out there. He loved skiing. It’s something he taught my brother and I … that whatever is going on in your life, the outdoors is always there to re-center yourself.”

Christie took his own advice. When he left the ski business, he dove into a career in advertising and marketing, and a year later, ran a chain of newspapers. His son said the change of careers allowed his father to tap into his strengths as a salesmen and storyteller.

“He loved talking to people,” Jake Christie said. “He loved being a salesman.”

And through his newspaper columns, John Christie used his love and knowledge of the outdoors to sell people on the virtues of enjoying Maine’s natural beauty. He stayed active throughout his life by hiking, skiing, kayaking and exploring Maine.

In 2002, Christie joined the board of directors of the newly formed Ski Museum of Maine and served a stint as president in 2005. He played a key role in forming the Maine Ski Hall of Fame, and was a current member and past president of the Sugarloaf Ski Club.

Bruce Miles, president of the ski club, said Christie’s contributions to the ski industry were immeasurable.

“He was a true lover of skiing,” Miles said. “He was one of the most outgoing people I have ever met. … I’ll miss seeing him walk into a room with a big smile on his face, saying ‘How are you doing?’ He was always inquiring about everyone else. I’ll miss his radiance. He really carried energy with him wherever he went.”

Christie, who lived in Washington with his wife, Margaret, authored “The Story of Sugarloaf,” which won the 2008 Skade Award given by the International Skiing History Association for an outstanding work on regional ski history. He also co-authored with his son Josh Christie a book called “Skiing Maine” that is expected to be published in September.

John Christie skied regularly at Sugarloaf this past season and was a member of the “locker room gang,” a group of men who met there every morning.

Don Fowler, a good friend, avid skier and member of the locker room group, said Christie skied hard and fast at 79 years old.

“I’ve seen him crash into trees. He was just a great character … a larger-than-life character,” Fowler said.

Christie spent the past few years working the booth at the entrance of Camden Hills State Park. He died there around 10 a.m. Saturday. A staff member and paramedics tried to revive him, but were unsuccessful. Many in the close-knit skiing community are in shock.

“He was such a physically fit guy,” said Bruce Miles, a friend. “When his son called me Saturday, I was in shock. I never would have thought he would die so suddenly like that. He was really energetic, healthy and active. He was climbing Bigelow Mountain once a year.”

Christie’s family said that a memorial service will be planned at a later date. In the meantime, condolences can be shared at longfuneralhomecamden.com.