I don’t really know how it happened. It wasn’t anything I’d planned. It just happened.

I was enjoying perhaps the nicest cruise of the season last week down Sugarloaf’s Timberline – in the afternoon sun, with hardly a breath of wind blowing – when I was transported in my mind back to a melange of skiing memories going all the way back to the old Slope Trail on Megunticook Mountain in the Camden Hills, the playground of my youth in the 1940s.

In fact, as visions of old trails, long-ago trips, antiquated lifts – and especially old friends – filled my head, I had to stop at Bullwinkle’s to both collect my thoughts and organize the jumble of memories that were stirring in the recesses of my not-so-young mind.

I realized, and this was confirmed by my wife when I told her about it at the end of the day, that perhaps my experience had been triggered by, as she calls it, the 38th anniversary of my 39th birthday celebrated just last week.

Perhaps it was provoked in part by my reading of Roger Angell’s delightful essay in the New Yorker magazine last week, entitled “This Old Man.”

Whatever the cause, I was consumed by an almost euphoric reverie about ski days gone by.


Spoiler alert: If you’re a youngster under the age of 60, you might want to skip the rest of these ruminations and wait for my son Josh’s column in this space next week. His words of wisdom will be much more contemporaneous and you’ll probably relate more easily. In fact, I’m reminded of a conversation with an old friend on the chair at Sunday River recently, during which he remarked, “I have to tell you, John, that my wife and I really enjoy the columns you and your son write in the paper. You must be very proud of him, as he does write quite a lot better than you do.”

Well, he does. And I am. And strangely, I felt better hearing that than if he’d said he preferred my writing. Part of being a father, I guess.

But for you older skiers, here are nuggets that flashed through my head as I wandered back in time:

There I am at the top of the trestle on the jump in Pettingill Park in Auburn, my first real ski jump, and loving the sensation of flying. And then having my good friend, and hero, Johnny Bower, tell me he thought I was the worst ski jumper he had ever seen.

Then it was off the real jumping hills in Rumford, Brattleboro, Middlebury and Lyndonville – where I demonstrated only modest improvement, but loved every single jump.

There I am riding the old Riblet chair on Bald Mountain in Dedham, ready to compete in the annual Silver Ski Trophy Race, little knowing that years later, in the 1970s, I’d have the opportunity to play a minor role in getting that very lift moved to the Camden Snow Bowl, where it has provided exemplary service for lo these many years. And this summer it will be replaced by Pleasant Mountain’s original triple chair and repurposed to serve a new beginner area at coastal Maine’s winter recreational treasure.


I see myself with my dear old buddy, Bruce Chalmers, and the rest of our Bowdoin ski team, stuffed in a couple of cars for our annual Christmas break training trip to Lac Beauport, west of Quebec City, where there was always dependable December snow. Two hotels each had their own T-bars, long before Mt. Saint Anne, Stoneham and Le Massif were developed. The 10-hour trip up through Jackman, then St. George, was an annual adventure that I’ll never forget.

Speaking of Jackman, I see myself bundled up riding the chair at short-lived Enchanted Mountain. And the reminder of chilly lift rides takes me back to windy mornings at the top of Sugarloaf’s No. 33 T-bar, the warmth of the blankets they’d throw on us as we sat down in the single chair on Mt. Mansfield, and the biting wind as we emerged from the upper gondola terminal at Wildcat, with the magnificence of Tuckerman and Mt. Washington just to the west.

Wildcat was responsible for my only hospital visit – in North Conway to set a broken ankle resulting from a tree leaping out into the trail as I raced in the annual downhill rite of spring.

I suppose there are other pursuits that can evoke such vivid memories, but as someone who participates in lots of other enjoyable pastimes, nothing compares to skiing in terms of its lasting impact.

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 columns on alternating weeks. He can be reached at:


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