By John Christie
“If Maine has a chance, it will probably be through the best efforts of not only the environmentalists but a new breed of businessmen as well — men who want primarily to see their state develop rather than be developed. There are strong indications that John Christie fits that pattern. He’s coming home to Maine from the big-time national ski world in order to develop Saddleback Mountain. One thing is certain, we’ll know a bit more about John Christie and Saddleback Mountain 10 years and 30 million dollars from now.”
So began an extensive article entitled “If Maine Has a Chance,” written by I. William Berry in Yankee magazine in the summer of 1973. I’ve kept this edition of the magazine locked away, but to this day it can remind me of the wild-eyed optimism of youth, of the price you can pay for hubris, of the problems one can encounter relying on influences beyond one’s control, of the importance of understanding the marketplace and the competition, of the absolute necessity to couple big plans with big resources, and of a period in my life that was both the best and the worst I would ever experience.
My ride on the Saddleback rollercoaster began on a beautiful spring day in 1972 as I sat in my cushy chair in my glass-walled office on the third floor of the base lodge at what we — meaning me and Walt Schoenknecht, the area’s fascinating visionary and owner — were then promoting as “The World’s Largest Ski Area” (10,000 skiers on a weekend day) at Mount Snow in Vermont.
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